Starbucks workers just keep winning. Back in December, two stores going union out of three that voted in Buffalo was a big deal, and the wins were narrow and hard-fought. This week, the union won four votes in a row—unanimously. There was literally no number of votes Starbucks could challenge at those stores (short of every single one) that would have yielded anything but a union. Those votes came at two Boston-area Starbucks, one in Pittsburgh, and one in Eugene, Oregon.
The company isn’t giving up on its anti-union campaign, though. Starbucks has started handing out fliers with fake tweets attributed to @SBWorkersUnited, the union Twitter account. And it has continued firing union leaders. Late Wednesday, More Perfect Union tweeted that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had filed a complaint against Starbucks for mistreatment of two workers in Phoenix, Arizona.
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One of the Phoenix workers is 19-year-old shift supervisor Laila Dalton, who was repeatedly berated and harassed before being fired. The other is Tyler Gillette, who is autistic and had been promised some reasonable accommodations. Instead, Starbucks put Gillette on indefinite unpaid leave after the union effort went public.
Another worker in Phoenix, Alyssa Sanchez, was told she could shift her schedule from five days a week to four so that she could attend flight school—until managers learned about her support of the union effort, at which point she was put on the schedule five days a week and pressured to resign. An earlier NLRB complaint, which also addresses the treatment of Dalton, called on the company to reinstate Sanchez.
The list of obviously retaliatory firings goes on. In the Buffalo area, shift supervisor Angel Krempa was fired after a series of disciplinary actions that started when she started wearing union paraphernalia, and culminated with her firing for supposedly not calling the store to report that she would be late because of car trouble. Except her phone logs show she did call.
In Raleigh, North Carolina, an organizing committee member was fired after part of a sink fell on her while she was washing dishes.
“The sink just kind of fell off the wall onto me,” Sharon Gilman told VICE. “I wasn't injured, but it did fall off and I was holding it up and there was water spraying.” Another worker confirmed that Gilman called for help and seemed scared, and workers documented the damage with photographs. The incident happened in February, but it was more than a month later when Starbucks fired Gilman, accusing her of intentionally breaking the sink and claiming to have video showing her yanking on it. Other workers at the store say equipment malfunctions are common there.
Just coincidentally no doubt, Gilman was fired the week ballots were going out for the union vote in her store, after two years on the job with no write-ups.
The list goes on.
Starbucks has clearly decided that the cost of illegally harassing and firing workers in retaliation for their union activity is worth it—and no wonder, since the only penalty the company will face is reinstating workers with back pay, minus whatever they have earned at another job while fired. As a tool for making other workers think twice about union support, that’s a lot cheaper than high-priced union-busting lawyers and consultants. But the thing is, it’s obviously not working. They’re firing pro-union workers left and right and this week saw four unanimous votes in favor of unionizing.
Twenty Starbucks stores have unionized, and well over 100 more have filed for union representation elections. That’s a tiny number in the context of the 9,000 or so Starbucks stores out there. But the winning streak here cannot be disregarded—and the company’s union-busting campaign shows it takes the effort very seriously.
Starbucks workers are racking up win after win after win, despite vicious anti-union campaign