By Jordan Zakarin
Starbucks sent an extraordinary note to employees nationwide on Thursday, urging them not to believe a former co-worker, Cassie Fleischer, who said she’d been fired last week after she helped organize the company’s first U.S. union.
What Starbucks didn’t know was that Fleischer had recorded her own firing. The audio, obtained by More Perfect Union, backs up Fleisher’s public claims about what happened and shows that what Starbucks management told its workers is false.
Fleischer worked at Starbucks for nearly five years, and at the Elmwood location in Buffalo, NY, since July 2020. She helped Elmwood become the first unionized location in company history and sits on the union’s bargaining committee.
Last Friday, Fleischer shared on Facebook that she’d been let go. “Little did I know, yesterday was my last shift at Starbucks. I am no longer being scheduled nor am I allowed to pick up any shifts, and as of today I am effectively terminated from the company.”
Days later, Starbucks tried to discredit Fleisher in a letter to thousands of employees sent by the company’s U.S. operations chief Denise Nelsen. “Earlier this week, a Buffalo partner claimed she was fired – she was not,” the note read. Nelsen claimed that 13 employees at the store had simultaneously asked to work fewer hours, which “made it hard on the manager,” but that local leaders were continuing to “have conversations” with Fleischer and the other employees.
But a recording of Fleischer’s conversation with her manager completely undercuts the company’s version of events.
In the recording, Fleischer’s manager tells her repeatedly that she’s being “termed out” — terminated — as a Starbucks employee and will have to reapply for a job if she wants to work for the company in the future.
“What happens going forward?” Fleischer asks. Her manager tells her she’s been fully removed from the schedule and ”termed out” effective in three weeks. “I should be terming it as of today really,” she added. “You’re not coming back.”
Starbucks had long accommodated workers’ schedule shifts and the realities of part-time work. More Perfect Union reported last week that the policy appears to have suddenly shifted in the Buffalo locations. The manager’s explanation seems to confirm that changes have been very recently made. She also acknowledges that Fleischer’s situation was triggered by a cutback in hours made available to her.
“I’m cutting back on the hours because it’s still too slow to house all the hours that we were previously,” the manager told Fleischer. “And I should’ve done it sooner than later so I was behind the 8-ball a little bit myself. There’s your shift and a couple other people that really, with the hours, I don’t have quite the availability.” She reiterates later, “I can’t even give you all those hours to begin with that you want.”
Listen to the audio recording of Fleischer’s firing:
Fleischer had typically worked between 37 and 39 hours per week until the run-up to the union election. Management then flooded the store with new hires in a union-busting attempt and cut her hours to between 29 and 31 per week. The loss of pay forced her to search for a second job, and in early February, she informed her manager that she’d obtained one. She asked to reduce her hours to 15 per week, while offering to provide extra availability when necessary.
On February 8th, her manager informed Fleischer that her request was being denied because it “didn’t meet the needs of business” and that she would have to either consider taking a leave of absence or “pursuing termination.”
In their final conversation last Friday, Fleischer reiterated that she was happy to pick up additional shifts and to work longer on weekends, but the manager said she didn’t want to give people 8-hour shifts on weekends because she’d be required to give them more break time — namely a 30-minute lunch and one or two 10-minute breaks over the course of the 8-hour shift.
I want to “make them the five-and-a-half-hour shifts, where we’re not running all those crazy breaks all the time,” the manager said.