Fired Starbucks employee says management hit back at union efforts
A former Starbucks employee who helped lead an effort by the organization to unionize her store is struggling to get her job back after being fired on Monday.
Laila Dalton, who had worked as a shift manager at a Starbucks near Scottsdale Road and Mayo Boulevard, tweeted shortly before her firing that two district managers had come to her store and suspected she would be fired.
His theory would be proven correct.
Dalton and other organizers returned to the store the next day to protest his dismissal, which also happened to be the day the union ballots were mailed out.
Employees at this Scottsdale location have joined hundreds of others across the country in an attempt to unionize their stores. A store in Mesa on Power and Baseline roads was the first unionized Starbucks in Arizona.
A Starbucks spokesperson told The Arizona Republic that Dalton’s firing was unrelated to his union activity.
“The interest of a partner in a union does not exempt it from the standards that we have always defended. We will continue to apply our policies consistently for all partners,” the spokesperson said, “partner” being the company term for an employee.
Dalton could not be reached for comment.
Federal labor law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who attempt to unionize. Forms of retaliation may include firing or demoting employees, reducing their pay, hours, or benefits, or transferring them to a new location.
Bill Whitmire, a shift supervisor at the same Starbucks location and another union supporter, told The Republic that Starbucks management targeted Dalton after learning of the store’s efforts to unionize in January.
“Basically, every time she walked into the store, she was a moving target to be pushed aside and talked to about something,” Whitmire said.
Dalton and another terminated employee, Alyssa Sanchez, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in March, accusing Starbucks of retaliation.
The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the complaint, reported that the NLRB accused two managers of targeting Dalton and Sanchez and punishing them to deter others.
Whitmire said a hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 14 and hopes the NLRB will force Starbucks to rehire Dalton and Sanchez with back pay.
Starbucks has not commented on the NLRB’s complaint.
Employees who showed their support for the union by wearing pins were also targeted, Whitmire said.
“Literally, you apply for a day off to request a day off two weeks in advance or a month in advance – there’s like a standard request deadline – and it’s been denied the same day,” he said. said Whitmire. “No discussion. No reason. I just declined.
Whitmire said managers refused to explain why they refused leave requests when employees inquired further. He added that Starbucks management had begun cutting employee hours, especially for those who wore union pins.
“We’re looking at hours that have been reduced by 25% to 50%,” Whitmire said.
He said the reduced hours are important because employees must log at least 20 hours a week to keep their benefits. Whitmire, a shift supervisor who normally works full-time, said even his hours had started to be reduced, from 35 to 38 hours at 11 p.m. next week and 11 p.m. the following week.
However, Whitmire said morale remains high among staff as their union campaign continues.
“We come in and do our jobs every day, and we’re all doing the best we can with the situation ahead of us.”
Whitmire said union ballots are due April 19, but the NLRB has yet to set a date for the official vote count. Whitmire hopes to soon join the six other stores that have already unionized and begin bargaining talks.
“Instead of just being nominal partners, we want to be real partners,” Whitmire said. “And we think we’ll get that when we have our union and can actually sit down in partnership with Starbucks management and negotiate a contract.”
Contact reporter Perry Vandell at 602-444-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PerryVandell.
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