NYC sues Starbucks because coffee chain fired union organizer

A cup of Starbucks coffee lies on a table in a coffee shop.

Joel Boh | Reuters

New York City suing Starbucks about allegations that the company improperly terminated a bartender and union organizer.

The city’s Bureau of Consumer and Worker Protection said the incident marks the first lawsuit for violating New York City’s “just cause” protections against fast food workers.

Austin Locke, a longtime bartender and union organizer, was fired less than a month after he and his colleagues voted to merge a Starbucks store in Queens, according to the filing. to sue. The store is one of dozens of locations Starbucks has voted to merge.

Starbucks has said that Locke was fired for failing to fill out a Covid-19 questionnaire and falsely reporting that a supervisor had physical contact with him, according to the city’s lawsuit. The flaws were confirmed by surveillance footage, but the lawsuit states that Locke’s county and store manager did not let him see the footage. Locke’s shift was canceled, and he filed a complaint with the city a few days later.

“We do not comment on pending litigation,” a Starbucks representative wrote to CNBC. “However, we intend to defend against allegations of violations of the New York City Primary Cause Law.”

Under the city’s Fair Workweek law, it is illegal to fire workers who have completed a 30-day probationary period or reduce their work hours by more than 15% for no reason or economic reason.

The city is suing to get Locke reinstated and win him restitution and compensation, which the city said will continue to accrue until Locke returns to his job.

“It has been a year since the campaign with Starbucks Workers United began at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, NY,” said Austin Locke. “There are now 235 Starbucks unions across the country. Starbucks continues to wrongly fire pro-union workers across the country in retaliation for unionizing.”

Starbucks has seen a wave of store consolidation across the countryand the organizers brought retaliation declaration of the company. Howard Schultz returns to the company as interim CEO in the workforce, and has said he wants to innovate the employee, customer and store experiences to better reflect how the world has changed since the pandemic. The company named its new chief executive on Thursday.

–CNBC’s Dan Mangan and Amelia Lucas contributed to this report.

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