New York City agency sues Starbucks for wrongfully terminating union organiser employee

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Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, a New York City agency has sued Starbucks for wrongfully terminating a longtime worker and union organiser. 

Reportedly, the barista named Austin Locke was fired after he and his colleagues voted to unionise a Starbucks in Queens. As per the agency, the case marks its first lawsuit for a violation of New York City’s “just cause” protections, a 2017 law meant to safeguard the interests of the fast-food workers.

Read more: Starbucks taps Indian-born Laxman Narasimhan as its next CEO, Twitter erupts with memes

As per the lawsuit, Starbucks at the time of Austin’s firing argued that he was fired for failing to fill out a COVID-19 questionnaire and falsely reporting that a supervisor made physical contact with him.

In response to the filing of the lawsuit, the coffee chain refused to comment. 

“We do not comment on pending litigation. However, we do intend to defend against the alleged violations of the New York City Just Cause Law.”

Read more: ‘Intense culture of fear’: Starbucks reportedly fires workers involved in union efforts

As reported extensively by WION, over 55 distinct strikes by Starbucks employees have taken place in at least 17 different US states in recent months due to the company’s vigorous opposition to a wave of unionisation.

As per an estimate by Starbucks Workers United, the company has directly lost more than $375,000 due to the strikes. 

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is currently investigating hundreds of allegations of misconduct by Starbucks related to the union campaign, including claims of closing stores to dismantle unions, firing employees, and intimidating and threatening workers to prevent them from unionising. 

Last month, a US federal court ordered Starbucks to reinstate its seven employees who were allegedly fired for unionising.

Judge Sheryl H. Lipman at the US District Court of the Western District of Tennessee passed the judgement, terming the rehiring as “just and proper”.

Akin to the case in Queens, seven Starbucks baristas had attempted to unionise the Memphis branch of the company and were promptly fired.

Read more: US court orders Starbucks to rehire employees it fired for ‘unionising’

(With inputs from agencies)

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