Media that empowers working people – that's how we build a More Perfect Union.

Don't Miss a Video!

Access our exclusive reporting and rapid response actions directly in your inbox, so you don’t miss a beat in the fight for working people nationwide.

Be a part of a community backing up independent journalism with action.

Ideas

Have a story to tell or idea to share?
Email [email protected]
© 2021 More Perfect Union Action

Together we can build power for working people.

We’re asking questions that really matter, and telling the stories of people who really need to be seen and heard.

You can support our work by donating today.

Amount

Make It Monthly

Don't Miss a Video!

Access our exclusive reporting and rapid response actions directly in your inbox, so you don’t miss a beat in the fight for working people nationwide.

Be a part of a community backing up independent journalism with action.

Starbucks Fires a Military Trainee and Aspiring Pilot For Union Involvement

By Jordan Zakarin

In mid-to-late January, Alyssa Sanchez asked her manager at a Phoenix, AZ Starbucks if she could modestly scale back her work schedule. She wanted to move from at least five days a week to four days per week. 

The manager said it wouldn’t be a problem — until a few days later, when word got out that Sanchez was part of a growing effort to unionize the store. 

Suddenly, the slight alteration that Sanchez requested “didn’t fit the needs of the business,” according to her manager, even when coworkers offered to pick up her shift. The manager continued to place Sanchez on the schedule five days a week, and was unbowed when questioned about it.

“My manager said, ‘People’s availability requests are only that, just requests,’ and she’s not obligated to follow those,” Sanchez tells More Perfect Union. 

Sanchez’s coworkers happily picked up a few of those shifts for her, but that was suddenly deemed against Starbucks policy.

“She said, ‘You need to come in or I’m gonna give you all these write-ups,’” Sanchez recalls. “And so she started threatening me with all of these write-ups and saying that it wasn’t going to work out and at that point, I was like, I don’t know what else you want for me.”

The choice was presented in no uncertain terms: If she wanted to keep her job, Sanchez would have to give up her dream of attending flight school, which was the impetus for the schedule change. It was all or nothing, an odd ultimatum to be handed down at Starbucks, a company that touts its schedule flexibility and friendliness to part-time work.

Within days, Sanchez was sending a resignation email demanded of her by the manager, eliminating one crucial vote for a union that was just getting off the ground. 

In March, the National Labor Relations Board issued a formal legal complaint against Starbucks for the illegal union-busting that the company has inflicted on the organizing workers at the Scottsdale and Mayo store in Phoenix. Much of the complaint centered on the relentless harassment of shift supervisor Laila Dalton, who has since been fired by the company. But the NLRB also cited Starbucks’ improper treatment of Sanchez, which it termed a “constructive discharge,” and is seeking to have her reinstated at a job she held for two years.

“It was so upsetting,” Sanchez says of the firing. “I loved the customers and the work itself, and when I got fired, not only did it affect me financially, but also my college education was riding on that job. So as soon as I lost the job, I lost my education, and I lost the daily contact with my co-workers that made me really happy — we were more like a family.”

After time spent serving in the Air Force reserve officer training program, Sanchez began Starbucks’ online tuition benefit at Arizona State University to continue pursuit of her bachelor’s degree. Now, she has to put her education on pause again in the middle of her junior year. She’s now looking for a new job and trying to stay involved in the union movement at the store, which has now lost four key leaders.

In addition to Dalton and Sanchez, a barista named Sofia Lugo was forced out of the company after management refused to make small changes to a schedule that would still have six days available to work. Tyler Gillette, another barista, was forced to go on long-term leave after the manager reneged on small accommodations to make it far easier to work with their autism. The NLRB also included Gillette’s unfair treatment in its complaint.

The sudden retirement of former CEO Kevin Johnson triggered the Starbucks’ multi-billionaire founder, Howard Schultz, as the company’s interim CEO at the beginning of April. Over the past few weeks, under Schultz’s direction, the company has increased the intensity of its union-busting and frequency of its firing pro-union workers. Starbucks has terminated workers in Michigan, Denver, and North Carolina over the past week, along with an outspoken union leader in Buffalo.

Related Stories

Starbucks Barista Challenges CEO Howard Schultz At Airport Meeting
Read More
Map: Where Are Starbucks Workers Unionizing?
Read More

The Latest

YouTube Thumbnail
Whistleblower Exposes Toxic Culture At Rivian
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Elizabeth Warren Warns of National Abortion Ban if GOP Wins in 2024
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
What Liberals Get Wrong About Trump Voters
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Legal Weed Is Being Ruined By Corporate Greed
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Why Going to the Pharmacy Sucks Now
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
5 Questions with AOC: Trump, Child Labor, Worker Uprisings
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
I build cars for a living and I can’t afford to buy one.
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The End of Overdraft Fees Is Finally Happening
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
This Lawsuit Could Bring Down Big Oil
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Why Waffle House Thrives On Violence
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Who is the most anti-worker presidential candidate? Nikki Haley
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Corporations Are Privatizing Nursing Homes. The Consequences Are Deadly.
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
What Honda Doesn’t Want You To Know
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
The NFL Is Choosing Concerts Over Player Safety. It’s Ending Careers.
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
Grocery Prices Keep Rising. This Could Stop It.
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
This Blue Bird Union Victory Could Transform the South
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Harvard University Got Rich
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
What Solar Companies Don’t Want You To Know
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
We Exposed The Defense Industry’s Biggest Lie
Read More
YouTube Thumbnail
How Uber Robs Its Drivers
Read More