Starbucks Union Leader Says Company Forced Her Out
A Starbucks employee in Buffalo who has helped lead the union campaign at the coffee chain over the past year has accused the company of forcing her out in retaliation for her organizing efforts.
The employee, Jaz Brisack, is the subject of an unfair-labor-practice charge filed by the union, Workers United, on Tuesday evening. The charge said that Starbucks had applied scheduling and availability policies to Ms. Brisack in a discriminatory fashion, and that this had effectively caused her separation from the company.
Ms. Brisack, who has a high profile among Starbucks employees because she is a Rhodes scholar and also works as an organizer for the union, said in an interview that the company had for months rejected her requests to change her work availability to one or two days a week from three.
“For seven months, you and Starbucks have been retaliating against me by refusing to accommodate my availability and my time-off requests and scheduling me when I am not available to work in an attempt to force me to quit,” Ms. Brisack wrote in a letter she gave her manager on Tuesday. “Starbucks has deliberately made my continued employment at the company impossible.”
Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman, said in a statement that the company tried to balance the scheduling requests of employees, known as partners, with business needs. “No partner is scheduled differently than other partners, or treated differently, separated or disciplined, for their position on or support of union,” he added.
Mr. Borges said Ms. Brisack’s store is regularly forced to close early because of staffing constraints.
The National Labor Relations Board has accused the company of ousting other employees under similar circumstances, including workers at the same store, according to a complaint that the agency filed this spring. Starbucks has denied the accusations, and the case is being litigated before an administrative law judge.
Ms. Brisack said that she had first sought to reduce her availability in February, and then again in May, but that the store had required her to maintain at least three days of availability. This summer, she began calling out of shifts she couldn’t make, she said, but doing so was unsustainable because it forced more work on colleagues and hurt morale.
“It’s an increasingly bad environment,” Ms. Brisack said. “I can’t be responsible for that. I can’t let Starbucks do that, destroy us from the inside.”
She submitted her resignation on Tuesday after asking her manager if she was going to be assigned three shifts during the next work period to be scheduled. The manager indicated that she would be.
In the letter to her manager, Ms. Brisack said she hoped to return to the company. “I look forward to coming back to work at Starbucks when the N.L.R.B. orders my reinstatement,” she wrote.