By Jordan Zakarin
Starbucks on Monday fired a Phoenix-based barista and union leader named Laila Dalton, an act of retaliation that caps two months of unrelenting harassment against the 19-year-old shift supervisor.
The dismissal comes just one day before the National Labor Relations Board sends union election ballots to workers at Starbucks’ Scottsdale and Mayo location, where Dalton has worked for several years.
According to a notice of separation provided by two district managers, Dalton was fired for recording audio on her phone while performing inventory in the backroom of the store.
As More Perfect Union has reported, Dalton has been accosted by her managers on multiple occasions; footage of the harsh discipline sessions have repeatedly gone viral and stoked outrage at the company. In March, the NLRB issued a formal complaint against Starbucks for subjecting Dalton to a series of abuses meant to disrupt the union campaign and force her to quit.
Shaken by these regular reprimands, Dalton had begun recording when working by herself or in close proximity to her managers.
“I’m always expecting it, because I’m harassed every single day,” she told More Perfect Union. “I never know when someone’s going to come harassing me, so I always want to be recording.”
Managers first confronted Dalton about the recording on Saturday, when they asked if her camera had been capturing audio on March 23rd and March 26th. Because Dalton had not told anyone about the recording, it was unclear how management knew about the contents of her phone. Arizona is also a one-party consent state, meaning that permission is not required to record conversations where the person recording is present.
Starbucks workers are usually offered a final warning notice before their termination, an important step that Dalton’s managers ignored until Monday during her firing. The final warning notice they handed her during the termination, which included a reprimand for going into the backroom to pick up a coworker on her day off, was dated March 18th.
The first incident occurred on January 25th, days after Dalton and three colleagues had submitted their signed union petition to the labor board. During that first conflict, Starbucks’ regional manager blindsided Dalton with a long corrective action form littered with reprimands for offenses such as missing work while in the hospital and texting her manager. After an intense encounter, the manager repeatedly attempted to coerce Dalton into handing in her resignation.
Dalton’s termination took place about one hour after Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz told employees in a town hall that the company was “being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.”