Starbucks employees speak out against alleged labor law violations


It has been almost three months since Anthony Price, of Uniondale, was fired from his job at a Westbury Starbucks.

Price, who was a union leader at his store, says he was fired by upper management in retaliation for his involvement with the store’s union, which included leading a number of strikes last October and November — one of them on Red Cup Day, Nov. 16, 2023. one of the biggest days of the year for the coffee chain. Three days after the Red Cup protest, Price says, he and his manager got into an argument, and soon afterward he was fired.

Price had never been in any kind of trouble at work prior to this incident, he said. The chain uses what it describes as a “progressive discipline model,” meaning that being fired is usually a last resort, after a series of escalating disciplinary steps. According to Clara Wheatley-Schaller, the political director for Workers United, the union that represents Starbucks employees, there was no progressive discipline in Price’s case, and there have been similar incidents in the Westbury store that have not led to terminations.

Since his firing in December, Price and Workers United have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit and are seeking to get his job back, along with back pay and damages. According to the union, Price is one of three Long Island union leaders — all people of color — who have been fired by Starbucks for infractions that usually do not result in terminations. All three have said they believe their firings were due to their outspoken leadership in the union.

Long Island Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor unions, community organizations, congregations and faith-based organizations, and students committed to protecting the rights of working people, held what it called a Workers’ Rights Board hearing on Feb. 22 in Amityville. It featured Price and several other Starbucks workers from around Nassau County, who detailed their experiences as Starbucks employees for four board members, County Legislator Siela Bynoe; Suffolk County Legislator Sam Gonzalez; Rashida Tyler, department director of the State Council of Churches; and Mary Anne Trasciatti, director of labor studies at Hofstra University.

The board listened to the employees’ testimonies as well as other statements from local activists and residents, who demanded that something be done to address the issues the workers raised. They accused various store locations of violating child labor laws, wage theft, union-busting operations, wrongful terminations, and even repeatedly reported workplace sexual harassment that has gone unpunished.

“They treat us like animals,” Price told the Herald. “I feel like every second that I’m not standing in that store physically is another second that they can exploit the people that I care about. In almost two years of employment, I have never been so much as written up, but the moment I stand up for myself and my coworkers, I’m met with immediate termination — no second chance, and not even a warning. The timing is just too close to be coincidental.”

“Anthony’s firing is part of a brutal and illegal union-busting campaign being waged by the company,” Wheatley-Schaller told the Herald in January. “The National Labor Relations Board has found that Starbucks has violated federal labor law more than 270 times since the campaign to unionize Starbucks began two years ago,” she added, “making Starbucks one of the worst violators of labor law in modern U.S. history.”

Ani Halasz, an organizer for Long Island Jobs with Justice, said he believes that Starbucks can — and should — operate a much more ethical business, especially on Long Island. “This is a multibillion-dollar company,” Halasz said. “They would rather spend millions of dollars hiring anti-union attorneys and law firms to fight against their own workers, rather than taking that very same money and providing it to these workers instead.”

Last year alone, Starbucks reported roughly $36 billion in revenue.

Alisa Wrencher, the district manager for Starbucks, did not respond to the Herald’s requests for comment.

Bynoe and the other members of the board said they would draw up a public report with “intervention recommendations” for the coffee chain. “I have several policy recommendations that bubbled up from Thursday’s testimony that I will submit for further consideration and review,” Bynoe said.

There was no indication of when the report would be completed, but once it is, the board plans to present its findings from the hearing, as well as its recommendations, to the management of the Starbucks stories whose employees testified, and to demand changes and threaten legal consequences.

“I am incredibly proud of these union members,” Bynoe added, “for paying the benefits of organizing forward and using their platform to identify and confront Starbucks.”