Starbucks union whips up protest over fired barista

By Julie Shapiro and J.B. Nicholas

A dozen members of the Starbucks Workers Union rallied in Union Square Monday night to protest the recent firing of one of their members.

“Shame, shame, shame on you,” they chanted, marching in front of the Starbucks at Union Square West and 17th St.

Henry Marin, a Starbucks worker and union member, said Starbucks plays favorites when scheduling workers for shifts and is denying severance pay to laid-off workers. The protestors described a rocky relationship between the union and the corporate giant.

“They’ve tried to deny our existence,” Marin said. “They’ve tried to squash our rights.”

Mark Ormsbee, a Starbucks district manager who was hunkered down inside the store during the protest, declined to comment. Starbucks released a statement saying the protesters, a subset of the International Workers of the World, are not representative of most Starbucks employees.

Last December, an administrative law judge for the National Labor Relations Board found that Starbucks had illegally fired three New York City baristas as part of an effort to squelch a union organizing effort. The judge’s 88-page ruling also says the company broke the law by giving negative job evaluations to other union supporters and by prohibiting employees from discussing union issues at work.

The judge ordered the three fired baristas reinstated, with back wages. The judge also called on Starbucks to end discriminatory treatment of other pro-union workers at the four Manhattan locations named in the case. The decision came at the end of an 18-month trial.

The shouting and placard-waving Monday night caught the attention of some of the 30 or so people sipping warm beverages inside the Starbucks.

“I think a lot of times that I shouldn’t support Starbucks,” said Elaina Royter, 24, who was studying at a table near the window. “But you can sit here for as long as you want and basically rent a table for $2.”

Royter said she’d be willing to send an e-mail or write a letter to support the workers, but, she added, “Am I going to boycott [Starbucks]? No.”