A lawsuit has been launched against Starbucks for the alleged illegal firing of an employee involved in union organization.
Austin Locke, a long-serving barista, was fired from a store in Queen in July – a month after the store voted to form a union.
Now, Starbucks is being sued over the move and The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) is pressing for Locke’s reinstatement.
The agency is also seeking civil penalties, re-compensation, and back pay.
The lawsuit claims Locke was informed about the dismissal for failing to complete a COVID-19 questionnaire the company gave and also for falsely reporting a supervisor for making inappropriate physical contact with him.
DCWP Commissioner Vilda Vera Mayuga said on Friday, September 2, that the agency “stands ready to fight for the dignity and respect that all workers deserve from their employers.”
“As we approach Labor Day, it’s important to remember that workers are the backbone of our city and deserve the right to organize to promote safer and fairer work practices.”
The complaint comes amid a burgeoning national unionization drive among Starbucks employees.
It follows the formation of the company’s first union in December 2021 at an upstate New York store.
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Since then, the corporation has faced several accusations of illegal termination related to union activities.
Starbucks was charged by the National Labor Relations Board in June with utilizing “illegal tactics,” including reportedly sacking some union activists in an attempt to suppress the movement.
Starbucks’ interim CEO, Howard Schultz, has also publicly opposed unionization moves on many occasions.
During his first town hall as reinstated temporary CEO in April, he said the firm was “being assaulted by the threat of unionization.”
In a statement, Locke asked Starbucks in a statement to “rehire all illegally fired workers and put an end to their illegal union-busting campaign.”
“It’s been a year since the campaign with Starbucks Workers United began at a Starbucks in Buffalo, NY.
“There are now 235 unionized Starbucks around the country. Starbucks continues to wrongfully fire pro-union workers nationwide in retaliation for union organizing.”
A Starbucks spokesperson said the firm does not comment on any pending lawsuit, but that it does “intend to defend against the alleged violations of the New York City Just Cause Law.”