Starbucks, Colorado employees clash as more stores vote to form unions

As more Starbucks employees in Colorado vote to unionize, a labor union has filed complaints saying the global coffee chain has fired and harassed employees who support the organizing efforts.

Employees at a store in the Cherry Creek North shopping district voted 8-5 Monday to become the seventh Colorado Starbucks to back unionization. While celebrating the latest election result, Malachi Dray, an organizer with the union Workers United, said Colorado employees are facing being fired and disciplined for union activities.

“There were five people fired across three stores in about a week,” Dray said.

The morning after employees at two stores voted May 19 to join Workers United, Starbucks began firing people, cutting hours and accusing employees of wrongdoing and not following company standards, Dray said.

“Because of their separations and resignations, these workers are facing housing, food, and financial instability and insecurity,” several employees said in a recent statement to the media.

Workers United has filed three complaints with the National Labor Relations Board in Denver. The union accuses Starbucks of retaliating against employees because they participated in organizing, which is protected under law.

About 200 complaints have been filed by Starbucks employees across the country as more stores have voted to unionize, Dray said.

All allegations of union busting “are categorically false and without merit” and that it’s union supporters who have been guilty of harassment, Starbucks said in an email Tuesday. The company said it filed a complaint with the NLRB in April to protect other workers and customers “and to make it clear that the intimidation, bullying and harassment we’re seeing from some union organizers is not acceptable.”

Starbucks officials have said they will respect the legal process and negotiate contracts in good faith, but have also said the company and “partners,” how it refers to employees, are better together without a union.

Monique “Mo” McGeorge was fired in May from her job of 15 months at a Starbucks store in Denver. McGeorge, who managed a Starbucks store 16 years ago, acknowledged that she put a food item back in a bag after dropping it on a counter, something she shouldn’t have done.

But McGeorge said it was her first infraction and three weeks went by before she was let go. She was fired May 24, a few days after employees at the store voted 9-1 to organize. McGeorge believes her support for the union got her fired.

“They’ve been cleaning house in that store,” McGeorge said. “They were starting to do write-ups on every little thing they could.”

Cutting back hours has hurt the younger workers, who need 21 hours to get health and college tuition benefits. McGeorge, who is 60 and semi-retired, said she voted for the union because the younger employees wanted one.

“I did it because that’s what the younger generation wanted, that’s what they’re fighting for,” McGeorge said. “I voted with them because I’m part of their team.”

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