New York City Sues Starbucks Over Firing Union Barista | Company

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(NEW YORK) — New York City is suing Starbucks over allegations that the coffee company unlawfully fired a Queens barista who was involved in union organizing efforts, a city agency said Friday.

The lawsuit marks the latest in a series of legal disputes over the firing of unionized Starbucks workers as hundreds of Starbucks stores nationwide have voted to unionize since an initial union victory at a Buffalo, New York store. , last December.

The lawsuit in New York alleges that Starbucks wrongfully fired worker and union organizer Austin Locke in early July, less than a month after employees at the store where he worked voted to join a union.

Starbucks violated the city’s “just cause” protections, enacted last year, which prohibit fast-food employers from firing or laying off long-tenured workers, or cutting their hours by more than 15%, without providing justification or economic reason. , the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, or DCWP, said Friday.

In mid-July, the DCWP received a complaint from Locke alleging that Starbucks had unlawfully terminated him, which the agency quickly investigated, according to a statement from the agency Friday.

Records and information provided by Starbucks during the investigation neither rebutted nor mitigated the agency’s decision that Starbucks unlawfully terminated him, the DCWP added.

The DCWP is seeking an order requiring Starbucks to reinstate Locke and rescind the discipline imposed on him, as well as back pay and other compensation for lost work, according to the statement. Starbucks should also pay civil penalties and comply with the law going forward, according to the release.

“There are now 235 unionized Starbucks across the country,” Locke said in a statement. “Starbucks continues to wrongfully fire pro-union workers across the country in retaliation for union organizing.”

In response to the lawsuit, a Starbucks spokesperson told ABC News, “We do not comment on pending litigation, but we intend to defend ourselves against this alleged violation of the city’s Just Cause law.”

The lawsuit in New York follows other legal challenges by Starbucks over its treatment of unionized employees. Last month, a federal judge called for the immediate reinstatement of seven baristas at a Memphis store, who were fired in February after speaking to a local television station about their union organizing drive.

Federal labor regulators filed a lawsuit last week accusing Starbucks of unlawfully discriminating against union employees by refusing to provide wage and benefit increases the company offered to non-union workers.

In a response last week, Starbucks said it could not raise union workers’ wages and benefits because federal law requires the company to negotiate terms of employment with the union at stores where workers have chosen to join. “Wages and benefits are mandatory subjects of the collective bargaining process,” Starbucks said in a statement.

In New York, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, a Democrat, applauded the city’s lawsuit on Friday.

“Protecting the rights of workers to organize and unionize is essential, and employers who attempt to undermine and violate these rights must be held accountable,” she said in a statement.

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