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Starbucks Is Waging War Against Union Leaders

Starbucks is using increasingly absurd reasons to fire pro-union workers.

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Video produced and edited by Jordan Zakarin and Josh Hirschfeld Kroen

Starbucks is firing union leaders during elections for increasingly preposterous reasons. One union leader was fired for showing up to work too early. Another was terminated after her co-worker refused to return from lunch. The reasons only get more absurd from there. We spoke to three Starbucks workers who were fired after organizing with Starbucks Workers United. Below is a full transcript of the video.

Michael Vestigo: I definitely think it was targeted retaliation for the whole unionization effort. I had been pretty vocal about my support for the union. 

Hannah Whitbeck: I was the main organizer for my store, so I kinda knew, you know, it was something that could happen because I’m putting a target on my back. But I would do it over and over again if I could. 

Bryan Nuzzo: I gave you five years— five and a half years of my life to this company. And for what? To be just tossed aside like this for trying to be proactive? 

I went into the store a few minutes early by myself. And according to policy, you’re not allowed in the store alone. We had three of our morning workers call out, so I had to go in early because I had to figure out my plan. 

I was just trying to do my job to try and get the store open when it’s supposed to. This is not something they ever enforced before. 

They didn’t even listen to my manager who was vouching for me telling them that I, you know, was a great employee. I never missed work. They basically tossed anything he said aside and didn’t want to even listen to this man who was my manager for almost five years. And they came in and told me they were letting me go.

Hannah: We had gotten into kind of an argument and it escalated into that individual yelling at me and my barista, um, very loudly to the point where a full cafe was silent… he was leaving to go outside and he was about to leave. I’m like, ‘Hey, you know, again, just a heads up. I have to leave at seven today. I can’t stay over.’

He still walked out and you know, seven o’clock rolled around. I waited a couple of minutes and I had made sure this barista was set up and made sure he didn’t need anything.

When I had tried to bring up, well, you know, the shift supervisor I was working with, it was his shift. He decided to leave. Why is this happening to me, and not him? I was told, ‘this is about you, not him.’ And to watch my tone. 

Michael: In the termination notice, they accused me of violent and threatening behavior stating that on or around March 11th, I was witnessed saying that I was going to punch our district manager in the face. Which is ludicrous because I had not seen her in the store myself in months.

It was kind of just out of the blue. I had a clean record. I’d never been written up or gotten in trouble or anything. I was a good worker. 

Bryan: He sat me down and he said, ‘listen, based on everything that happened on March 4th, we’re going to have to let you go.’ He then decided to tell me that he really cared about me and was going to help me through these next few steps in this process. And that really set me off. 

You just like upended my entire life basically. I mean, this, this is my livelihood.

Hannah: This was my assistance with tuition payments. This was my, this is my, everything, you know, my healthcare, all of it just gone in one day.

Michael: I believe the moment they really kind of targeted me was during a partner development conversation. They asked me what some of my weaknesses were and I told them that I had difficulty standing up for myself. So I kind of think that was the first moment where they were like, okay, we can kind of go for this guy because he’s not gonna fight it or anything. And I think that’s a theme throughout all of their firings here as well. 

Bryan: The NLRB has been very helpful. They’re going to be dropping the lawsuits against Starbucks for me and a bunch of other Starbucks partners throughout the country that had been unjustly fired. So is that a coincidence that a bunch of the union leaders were fired for these things that they never cared about before? I don’t think so.

Michael: I really think that Starbucks has shown their true colors. 

Hannah: It blows my mind. And just a perfect example of something that I think I read back in February: Starbucks releases a quarterly report to their shareholders. And they were talking about how it might be a little bit lower because they had to pay their lawyers and they can’t afford to pay their lawyers and us. So that’s why our hours got cut. Absolutely ridiculous. Your priority should not be paying multi-million dollar lawyers to fight your employees versus paying your employees. 

Bryan: People like me who have done almost nothing wrong and who were model employees who have been unjustly let go. I think it lit the fire for the other partners to say, ‘Hey if these people can get fired for trying to do the right thing, where does that leave us?’

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