A top union organizer has resigned from Starbucks, saying the company forced her out because of her union leadership.
Jaz Brisack, a barista who helped lead the unionization of a store in downtown Buffalo, New York, late last year, said Wednesday her last day in the business would be 18 september. The vote at the Brisack store sparked a movement; since then, at least 238 US Starbucks stores have voted to unionize, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
In a letter to his manager, which Brisack shared with The Associated Press, Brisack said Starbucks refused to meet his availability requests for seven months. Brisack said it hurt morale at the store, where her co-workers had to fill in for her when she was away.
“Starbucks deliberately made my job at the company impossible,” said Brisack, who has been with the company for nearly two years.
Seattle-based Starbucks said it tried to balance Brisack’s scheduling demands with the store’s staffing needs. The company said Brisack worked about 20 hours a week until May, when she told the outlet she was only available 6.5 hours one day a week.
Starbucks said it was not approved because it did not meet the store’s needs.
“We strive to treat each partner equally, balancing their scheduling demands with the business and customer needs of the store,” Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges said.
Brisack said his request was not unusual, and many people only work at Starbucks one or two days a week. Borges said hours vary by store, but the Brisack store is already so understaffed that it often has to close early.
Starbucks does not support the organizing effort. But Borges said no employee was treated differently or disciplined because of their support for unions.
Brisack said at least 10 of his colleagues have been laid off by the company in the past year. In June, the NLRB filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking the reinstatement of seven pro-union workers who were fired from a store in Buffalo.
The NLRB also accused Starbucks of interfering with workers’ rights to unionize in Memphis, Tennessee, where the company laid off seven workers in February. A federal judge in Memphis recently ordered Starbucks to reinstate these workers while the NLRB case unfolds.
But the NLRB lost a similar case in June, when a federal judge in Phoenix denied the agency’s request to force Starbucks to rehire three workers.
Workers United, the union that supports the Starbucks campaign, said Wednesday it had filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit against Starbucks on Brisack’s behalf.
Brisack said she expects the NLRB to order Starbucks to reinstate her. In the meantime, she will remain on her store’s bargaining committee and continue to work with Workers United to organize other Starbucks stores.