The city of New York has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks over the dismissal of a union organiser.


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According to the city, this is the first lawsuit filed under New York City’s “Just Cause” labour safeguards.

The city is seeking that the employee be restored, as well as reparations and backpay.

Starbucks is being sued by the city of New York for allegedly unlawfully terminating a barista and union activist.

According to the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, this is the department’s first lawsuit for a breach of New York City’s “just cause” fast-food worker rights.

According to the lawsuit, Austin Locke, a longtime barista and union organiser, was dismissed less than a month after he and his employees voted to unionise a Starbucks in Queens. The Starbucks location is one of many that have decided to unionise.


According to the city’s lawsuit, Starbucks stated that Locke was fired for failing to complete a Covid-19 questionnaire and falsely alleging that a supervisor made physical contact with him. The errors were allegedly confirmed by security footage, but the suit claims that Locke’s district and shop managers refused to let him see it. Locke’s shifts were cancelled, and he complained to the city a few days later.

“We do not comment on pending litigation,” a Starbucks spokesperson told CNBC. “However, we intend to fight the claimed violations of New York City’s Just Cause Law.”

It is illegal to terminate workers who have completed a 30-day probation or lower their hours by more than 15% without reasonable cause or economic reasons under the city’s Fair Workweek ordinance.

The city is seeking to have Locke reinstated as well as to recover restitution and back pay, which the city claims will continue to accrue until Locke returns to work.

“It’s been a year since the campaign with Starbucks Workers United began in a Starbucks in Buffalo, NY,” Austin Locke said in a city statement. “There are now 235 unionised Starbucks locations across the country.” Starbucks continues to wrongfully dismiss pro-union employees around the country in punishment for unionisation.

Starbucks outlets have been unionising around the country, and activists have filed retaliation lawsuits against the firm. During the labour drive, Howard Schultz returned to the company as temporary CEO, saying he wanted to redefine the employee, customer, and retail experience to better reflect how the world has evolved since the pandemic. On Thursday, the business named its new CEO.


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