On Thursday, March 2, at 11:30 am Alice was told she was being fired from the University of Oregon’s EMU Starbucks. After working at different Starbucks locations for seven years, she didn’t know how to react. “I was really shocked. I really didn’t expect to get fired,” Alice says, “They didn’t even let me finish my last day.”
Alice declined to provide her last name as she hasn’t spoken with her lawyer.
Alice, her coworkers and a representative from Starbucks Workers United say they believe the firing to be unlawful. In a move of solidarity, her fellow co-workers walked out of the EMU location for the rest of the day, refusing to work.
Alice, who graduated from UO last June, previously attended the union meetings when the location first began its unionization process. The store is unionized but still has no union contract with the company.
“I really didn’t expect to get fired after putting seven years of my time into this company. I’m a hard worker,” Alice says.
After making customers drinks during the store’s peak operating hour, around 11 during school days, store manager Cody Banner and district manager Thomas Finley took Alice off the espresso machine. They sat Alice down in the middle of the EMU Fishbowl cafeteria, right out in front of the store, in front of her coworkers, and she was fired on the spot.
Alice says she asked Finley why she wasn’t terminated at the end of her shift at 2 pm. “I didn’t want to wait till 2,” Alice recalls Finley saying.
She was told it was for a previous write-up from over a month and a half ago.
Here’s the catch: Alice didn’t know about the infraction until she was being fired. The write-up cited the use of the word “bitchy” out in front of the store. Alice doesn’t remember using the word “bitchy.” She recalls that she was actually talking to a previous manager about issues with the store and how it was being run.
She and her coworkers say because of this they believe the termination was unlawful. Starbucks Workers United representative Jake LaMourie says that “her firing would be unlawful on the grounds that this ‘no cursing’ policy that they’re using as justification has never been enforced previously. A change in enforcement of pre-existing rules after a shop forms a union is illegal.”
“This is bullshit, they shouldn’t have fired her,” Owen Wach, a supervising manager for the EMU location says. At first, the workers tried to figure out why their friend had been fired. The district manager gave the EMU workers no reason and said that they will not be discussing the firing. “All they said was we won’t talk about it,” Madie Holst, Alice’s co-worker says.
Not even 30 minutes after Alice was fired, the workers turned the keys to the store over to Banner and Finley, who left.
EW reached out to Finley who did respond to request for comment before publication.
The UO campus Starbucks store is one of several in Eugene-Springfield whose workers have unionized. According to a December 2022 National Labor Relations Board order, Starbucks management “failed and refused” to start contract bargaining throughout 2022 despite the union’s multiple offers. The federal agency reminded Starbucks to not only adhere to a bargaining schedule with the union but also conduct a training session with all managers and supervisors regarding their obligations under the National Labor Relations Act.
Watching their coworker being fired, the attitude in the store changed immediately. Wach then asked his co-workers if they wanted to walk out of work today in protest of Alice’s firing. “Everybody was really on board with it,” Wach says.
The store closed down immediately. Signs were placed apologizing to those who missed their mobile orders, telling readers to call or email Finley to request a refund. Unionized workers checked with their legal advisor to make sure they would be protected.
A call was then sent out to all other local union chapters requesting their support for the strike.
LaMourie answered. They brought everything needed for a strike: pickets, signs, the works.
Fifteen Starbucks employees stood out in front of the EMU in the rain holding signs that read, “United We Bargain, Divided We Beg” and “Bust Nuts Not Unions.”
This is the EMU location’s third walkout since the store unionized last April. According to LaMourie, every attempt to draft a union contract with Starbucks has failed, and no store nationwide has successfully created one. “We would walk in, we would introduce ourselves and then Starbucks would storm out the room,” LaMourie says.
LaMourie was an employee at Starbucks last year until he was fired for calling in sick two days after a week-long strike over firing workers illegally. His case for unlawful termination is still being reviewed by the NLRB.
According to LaMourie, other locations in Eugene have gone on strike seven times since last year.
Alice says she is going to lose her health insurance in a month, and she is unsure as to what she is going to do next. Issues in her shoulder from working at Starbucks for so long have forced her to start receiving physical therapy, which she will not be able to continue.
She says she wishes that her employers gave her more of a warning so she could figure out where she’ll work next. “I’m not gonna miss the company and how it operates, but I will miss my coworkers,” Alice says.