SAY WHAT? - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday joined several local New York Democrats in condemning Starbucks' recent firing of two union leaders in the state, part of a string of terminations the company has carried out across the country in recent months as it tries to crush worker organizing.
"We are writing to express our dismay around the firings of Austin Locke and Joselyn Chuquillanqui, two Starbucks partners who were also union leaders at their stores," the New York lawmakers wrote in a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and the rest of the company's management.
"We have heard reports that the company has been targeting pro-union partners and firing union leaders all over the country," they added. "We continue to stand by these workers and would like to remind you that all workers have the right to join a union, and that retaliation based on exercising these workplace rights is unlawful."
"We urge you to respect workers' right to organize and follow the law," the lawmakers continued. "We stand in solidarity with Austin and Joselyn, and other partners in New York, in calling for you to reinstate these two workers."
Locke and Chuquillanqui were both fired in July for reasons they say were concocted to justify the actual cause of their termination: their roles leading union drives at their respective stores.
Last week, the government of New York City sued Starbucks over Locke's firing, alleging the company violated the city's "just cause" protections for workers. Locke was fired just a month after his Starbucks shop in Queens voted to unionize, joining more than 200company locations that have won union elections since December.
"It's been a year since the campaign with Starbucks Workers United began at a Starbucks in Buffalo, NY," Locke said in a statement last week. "There are now 235 unionized Starbucks around the country. Starbucks continues to wrongfully fire pro-union workers nationwide in retaliation for union organizing."
Organizers say Starbucks has fired 10 union leaders in Buffalo alone, sparking backlash from the local community.
Last month, a federal court ruled that seven Starbucks workers in Memphis, Tennessee were unlawfully fired for union activity and ordered the company to rehire them.
Starbucks appealed the decision, but on Wednesday the company lost its appeal and reluctantly agreed to rehire the seven workers.
"We hope the win helps provide the precedent for other cases like ours and helps show workers that we have the power to stand up for a better work life for ourselves and every other worker out there," Kylie Throckmorton, one of the fired workers, said in a statement.
(Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was first published.)