US: Starbucks labour organiser resigns from Buffalo store

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High-profile labor organizer Jazz Brissack says the coffee giant fired him because of his union leadership.

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A high-profile labor organizer in the United States has resigned from Starbucks, saying the company forced him out because of its union leadership.


Late last year, Jazz Brissack, a barista who helped lead the unionization of a store in downtown Buffalo, New York, said Wednesday that her last day at the company would be September 18.

The vote at Brissack’s store started a movement; Since then, at least 238 U.S. Starbucks stores have voted to unionize, according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

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In a letter Brisack wrote to his manager, which Brissack shared with the Associated Press news agency, Brissack said Starbucks has refused to accommodate its availability requests for seven months.

Brissack said it hurt the morale of the shop, where his coworkers have to cover for him when he is absent.

“Starbucks has intentionally made my continued employment at the company impossible,” said Brissack, who has worked at the company for nearly two years.

Seattle-based Starbucks said it attempted to balance Brissack’s scheduling requests with the store’s staffing needs. The company said Brissack was working about 20 hours per week until May, when it told the store it was only available for 6.5 hours a day per week. Starbucks said it was not approved because it did not meet the store’s requirements.

“We work to treat each partner equally, while balancing their scheduling requests with the needs of the store’s business and customers,” said Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges.

Brissack said his request was not unusual, and that many people only work one or two days per week at Starbucks. Borges said schedules vary by store, but Brissac’s store already has so little staff that it often has to close early.

Starbucks does not support the unionization effort. But Borges said no employee is treated differently or disciplined because of the union’s backing.

Brissack said at least 10 of his coworkers have been fired by the company over the past year. In June, the NLRB filed a case in federal court in New York seeking reinstatement of seven pro-union activists fired from a store in Buffalo.

The NLRB also accused Starbucks of interfering with workers’ rights to organize in Memphis, Tennessee, where the company fired seven workers in February. A federal judge in Memphis recently ordered Starbucks to reinstate those workers while the NLRB case is ongoing.

But the NLRB lost a similar case in June, when a federal judge in Phoenix denied the agency’s request to force Starbucks to rehiring three workers.

Workers United, the union that supports the Starbucks campaign, said Wednesday that it has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Starbucks on Brisack’s behalf.

Brissack said he expects the NLRB to order Starbucks to reinstate him. In the meantime, she will remain on the bargaining committee for her store and will continue to work with Workers United to organize other Starbucks stores.

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