Update as of 3 p.m.: Starbucks responded to the Voice‘s request for comment with a statement saying that the company’s position remains that “all of our partners in a market or district deserve the right to vote,” and that the company’s goal is to create a store environment that both partners and customers expect of Starbucks.

Additionally, the statement said that “Some of the complaints from the union have been about our sharing facts and our perspective on this important issue so partners can make informed decisions when they vote. Our hope is the union would respect our right to share information and our perspective just as we respect their right to do so.”

The original story continues below.

ITHACA, N.Y.—Workers at the last two open Starbucks locations in Ithaca are striking after another episode of what they allege is retaliation against them for unionizing by the company.

On the morning of Aug. 25, union organizer Kayli Gillett was fired from the Starbucks located on the Ithaca Commons, causing the rest of the employees on the floor to walk out and strike for the remainder of the operating hours.

Gillett, who had been with the company for more than four years, was the third worker in the past three weeks to be fired from an Ithaca store, after Benjamin South was fired in the beginning of August. Both South and Gillett had been deeply involved in the local Starbucks unionization effort.

The Commons locations workers walked out after the firing, and the strike has spread to the South Meadow Street location as well. Tensions have been high between the union and company since the Collegetown location was closed shortly after the successful unionization vote in April.

For now, workers at both remaining locations in Ithaca are on strike, likely for the “next few days,” according to Buffalo-based Workers United representative Brian Murray, and will be picketing at the South Meadows location until 5 p.m. on Aug. 26.

According to Gillett, she had been fired by manager Chris Mix after arriving late to work — something the company is typically lenient on, claimed union representative Jaz Brisack, except when the employee is a unionized worker. Other seemingly more overt negative worker treatment after unionizing has put employees on edge at the Ithaca locations for several months. Mix did not reply to request for comment.

Brisack and Brian Murray, another union rep from Buffalo who arrived in Ithaca Thursday afternoon, said that union organizers and supporters are often are fired for things that non-union workers wouldn’t be, for example, sleeping late.

Workers at the two remaining Ithaca Starbucks locations are on strike. (Photo by Zoë Freer-Hessler)

“It’s very calculated, this is not normal,” Brisack said. Murray added that these charges would be added to ongoing complaints against the local Starbucks locations that have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board.

Brisack also said that Starbucks hasn’t been responding to requests from the Ithaca locations for union negotiations to begin — seemingly, unfortunately, part of the national trend of behaviors by Starbucks post-unionization that Vox reported on Aug. 25.

On the national scale, Starbucks is facing orders from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to reinstate baristas (who were also union leaders) who had been fired over the past eight months. On Aug. 25, the NLRB also alleged that the company withheld benefits and wage increases from unionized baristas — which Starbucks denied, falling back on a statement made in July stating that “The laws is clear: once a store unionizes, no changes to benefits are allowed without good faith collective bargaining.”

The Washington Post reported that in early May, nonunion employees received a wage increase, while Starbucks refused to provide the same raises to unionized workers, claiming that benefits and wages already in place when union petitions are filed must remain the same until they go through negotiation processes. “After a store votes “yes,” union representatives now speak for all partners in the bargaining unit at that store during bargaining. Starbucks is committed to bargaining in good faith,” the July statement said.

Starbucks corporate has responded for comment.

Zoë Freer-Hessler

Zoë Freer-Hessler is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. She has covered a wide range of topics since joining the news organization in November 2021. She can be reached at zhessler@ithacavoice.com...