Starbucks Is Retaliating Against Union Leaders, Fired Worker Cassie Fleischer Says

A Starbucks worker who was fired from her job at the coffee chain's first unionized store says she believes the company is retaliating against her and others for leading unionizing efforts.

Cassie Fleischer, 25, said she was "effectively terminated" from her job at the Elmwood Avenue location in Buffalo, New York, after she asked to cut back on her availability because she had secured another job with full-time hours.

She helped lead the union drive at the store, which became the first Starbucks location to form a union in decades after a December, 2021 vote. Since then, workers at a growing number of Starbucks stores across the country have launched efforts to unionize.

Fleischer told Newsweek on Tuesday that Workers United, the union representing Starbucks workers, has filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleging that she was fired "in retaliation for union activity."

"I do believe they're targeting union leaders," she said. "There are other union leaders who face the same consequences I faced, but we are confident that I will be reinstated."

A Starbucks spokesperson told Newsweek that Fleischer "has not been fired."

"She has requested a significant reduction in hours (as she communicated in her post), and our local leaders continue to have conversations with her and other partners who have made similar requests to try to find a way to accommodate those requests while also ensuring the store is adequately staffed to continue operating without placing an undue burden on other partners," the spokesperson said.

Fleischer said she had informed management earlier in February that she was reducing her availability to 15 hours a week after securing a full-time job.

"I put in a change of availability to reflect my new job and was told about a week later that it was denied and that availability wouldn't meet the needs of business," she said.

The company's previous policy required employees, who are known as partners, to work 12 hours a week to retain employment, she said, but that was recently changed to 20 hours.

"Despite Starbucks' efforts to stop the union effort and get rid of union leaders, we are standing strong and will not be deterred," Fleischer added.

"This is not who Starbucks is as a company and we will hold them accountable. We are demanding my reinstatement with back pay and that Starbucks end its war against partners."

Ian Hayes, an attorney representing Workers United, said he filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the NLRB about Starbucks' implementation of the rule about availability last week.

"We are including an allegation about Cassie's termination in that case," Hayes told Newsweek. "More broadly, the charge alleges that the company is implementing this rule in order to dissuade other Starbucks workers from organizing, in violation of workers' most basic rights under federal labor law.

"From what I've seen, Starbucks will stop at nothing to stop the movement its workers have created, and they don't appear to care about violating those workers' rights in the process. As Cassie has said, the Company won't get away with it."

Fleischer's apparent termination comes after Starbucks fired seven employees who were leading an effort to unionize a store in Memphis, Tennessee.

Starbucks said the employees had violated company policy, including by allowing a local reporter into the store after hours to conduct an interview. The fired employees said Starbucks was retaliating against them for their unionization efforts.

Starbucks opposes unionization, saying the company functions best when it can work directly with its employees.

"From the beginning, we've been clear in our belief that we do not want a union between us as partners, and that conviction has not changed," Starbucks Executive Vice President Rossann Williams said in a letter to Starbucks employees after the Elmwood Avenue store voted to unionize.

"However, we have also said we respect the legal process. This means we will bargain in good faith with the union that represents partners in the one Buffalo store that voted in favor of union representation."

Update 2/23/22, 3:45 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to add a comment from a Starbucks spokesperson and additional information.

Cassie Fleischer
Cassie Fleischer said she was terminated by Starbucks after she cut back on her availability after securing a full-time job. Starbucks has denied she has been terminated, and claims to be still in dialogue with her. Facebook/Cassie Fleischer