Starbucks Union Organizer Fired For ‘Drinking Water’ On The Job

A Starbucks worker is speaking up about union-busting activity at the coffee chain.

The Guardian reports:

“Gabriel Ocasio Mejias worked as a barista at Starbucks in Orlando international airport for two years before he was fired on 18 February, shortly after he emerged as one of the leading organizers to unionize his co-workers with labor union Unite Here.

‘I was fired three hours after another union organizer was fired,’ Mejias told the Guardian. ‘They took me to the back of the food court, in a dimly lit area, and a manager fired me over a third write-up for drinking water. That was their way to get rid of me, for drinking water, because they know I was one of the strongest organizers. They targeted me specifically to create fear for my co-workers of joining the union.’

Starbucks did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

Mejias’s comments come as a new report from Unite Here found significant issues for some Starbucks workers employed by HMS Host, an airport and highway food service company that has maintained exclusive rights to operate Starbucks stores in airports throughout North America until earlier this month, when both companies announced the exclusivity deal would end.

The Unite Here report found that median pay for black Starbucks workers was $1.85 less than white Starbucks workers, based on data taken from HMS Host locations at 27 US airports between February and December 2019. Though more than 8,000 US Starbucks locations closed in May 2018 for racial bias training following an incident at a Philadelphia based Starbucks location, none of the HMS Host-operated Starbucks participated, according to the report.

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Among the Starbucks employees employed by HMS Host at 29 US airports surveyed, 32% of workers reported being unable to pay their rent in the past year and 17% of workers surveyed rely on food assistance. Workers also reported several cases of LGBTQ+ discrimination, and one in four immigrant workers reported being told not to speak their preferred language at work. A memo included in the report from HMS Host outlines company policy where workers are mandated to only speak English, including in communication with other associates or when using a business or personal phone within proximity of other associates or customers.

HMS Host denied firing workers for union activity, but declined to comment on specific personnel issues citing privacy concerns.”

For the rest of the story, visit The Guardian here.

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