NYC sues Starbucks for firing union barista | Starbucks
A New York City agency that oversees workplace affairs said Friday it has sued Starbucks because the coffee chain illegally fired a barista and a union organizer shortly after employees at its store voted to join a union.
The Department of Consumer and Labor Protection has called the case on behalf of Austin Locke, a Starbucks employee for nearly six years, the city’s first case for violating “just cause” protections under a 2017 law intended to protect fast food workers.
The action comes as Starbucks appoints a new CEO and accuses the company, along with Amazon and others, of being slow in negotiations over union contracts in an effort to derail a wave of union efforts across the country.
The New York Fair Workweek Act prohibits fast food owners from firing or laying off workers, or reducing their working hours by more than 15%, without direct cause or legitimate economic reasons.
According to a petition filed with the city’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, Starbucks fired Locke on July 5, one month after employees at its store in the Astoria section of Queens decided to join a union.
The lawsuit seeks to get Locke back on his job and his late payment, as well as civil penalties.
A Starbucks spokeswoman said the Seattle-based company is not discussing pending litigation, but plans to defend against allegations of law violations.
The petition said Starbucks alleged that it fired Luke because he failed to complete a questionnaire required under Covid-19 protocols, and falsely reported that the supervisor made unsolicited contact during the dispute by placing his hand on Luke’s chest.
The petition said both incidents occurred two days after the union vote.
In a statement issued by the city, Locke said: “Starbucks continues to fire wrongly pro-union workers across the country in retaliation for union organizing.”
He called Starbucks to negotiate a contract with the Starbucks United Workers Company, which represents employees in more than 200 stores.
Last month, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc agreed to pay about $20 million to about 13,000 workers to settle the city’s allegations that it violated the Fair Work Week Act.
Chipotle has been accused of failing to give workers their schedules two weeks in advance, awarding overtime pay for unscheduled work shifts, and allowing workers to use accumulated sick leave.
Reuters contributed to this story