From the beginning of a campaign to unionize a Starbucks cafe in Plover, Wisconsin that started this February, Kolton Gosnell, a barista and worker-leader with Starbucks Workers United, had been one of the union’s most vocal supporters and fervent internal organizers.
Earlier this month, and only days after the 7 to 5 vote in favor of unionization became public, Gosnell was pulled aside in the middle of his shift and informed that he was being terminated by the store’s management.
“I 100% believe it was related to my union organizing. The rules were applied unevenly on one person,” Gosnell told Wisconsin Public Radio. He also explained that he had never been written up or even been given a verbal warning for the behavior before the company let him go.
This Sunday, standing in front of the cafe’s facade, almost two dozen workers and supporters expressed their anger at the behavior of the company in relation to Gosnell’s firing:
Laila Dalton, a former Starbucks employee at a cafe in Arizona, traveled to Plover to talk to the rally’s attendees about how her own termination inspired her to support other affected workers:
Termination has become a favorite tool of Starbucks leadership to intimidate and suppress union support, especially since founder and current CEO Howard Schultz took over control of the company from former executive Kevin Johnson in February. According to reporting by The Guardian, the company has terminated the employment of over 20 union leaders in recent months.
The National Labor Relations Board has started to seek injunctive relief for fired workers, starting last week with a set of seven baristas in Memphis who were also vocal union supporters. Along with the Memphis workers, the Board is demanding reinstatement and backpay for three fired workers in Overland, Kansas; six fired workers in Buffalo, New York; and three fired workers from various locations in Arizona.
If the Board’s complaints are not settled by the company directly, the issue will be brought before an administrative law judge for adjudication.
Reporting Courtesy of Sean Hagerup for Labor Radio
Image Courtesy of Shaun Janssens on Flickr