The union-related woes (of their own making, of course) continue for Starbucks. Last month, the National Labor Relations Board sided with Starbucks Workers United, claiming that the company is unfairly withholding nationwide pay raises and expanded benefits from unionized workers. And now, New York City is suing Starbucks for firing union employees.
As reported by CNBC, the issue stems from the coffee giant’s alleged wrongful termination of Andrew Locke, a longtime Starbucks barista in Queens and union organizer. The termination, per NYC’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, runs afoul of the city’s “Just Cause” worker protections for fast-food workers, which in part make it “illegal to fire workers who have completed a 30 day probation or reduce their hours by more than 15% without just cause or an economic justification.”
Per the lawsuit, Starbucks alleges that they terminated Locke for “failing to fill out a Covid-19 questionnaire and falsely reporting that a supervisor made physical contact with him, according to the city’s lawsuit.” The alleged indiscretions were reported by the company to be caught on surveillance footage of the store, but according to the suit, the district and store manager didn’t allow Locke to see the footage. At which time, his shifts were canceled, ultimately leading to the lawsuit.
CNBC notes the timing of the firing, finding it to have occurred less than a month after the Starbucks location voted in favor of unionizing, which Locke’s efforts helped to bring about.
This suit is the first time the city has brought a company to court under the Just Cause protections enacted by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio in January of 2021 (to go into effect in July of that year). With the suit, the city seeks to get Locke reinstated in his previous position with Starbucks as well as win him restitution and back pay, which NYC states will continue to accrue until Locke is able to return. Meanwhile, on-again off-again Starbucks CEO and erstwhile presidential candidate Howard Schultz is once more stepping down from the role, allegedly for the last time (according to him), and incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan set to take over in April 2023. Unions continue to be ratified at Starbucks locations across the United States.