West Campus Starbucks increases employee discipline; employees claim union-busting

Morgan Severson , News Reporter

Starbucks employees at the West 24th and Nueces Street location in West Campus plan to protest outside of the store this Saturday at 4 p.m. following a shift in their treatment by management after they announced their intent to unionize in March.

Currently, the National Labor Relations Board is suing the Starbucks Corp. for union retaliation at stores across the country. Organizing employees at the 24th Street store said their grievances include a reduction in labor and store hours, increased discipline and presence of management in the store and the store no longer validating public employee parking for work. Organizing employee Lillian K. Allen said these factors make the store difficult to work at.

“It’s very much death by a thousand cuts, but it is definitely union busting,” Allen said. “There’s no other rational explanation for why a company would want to, especially one like Starbucks, which prides itself on being this (place) where people feel welcomed and seen and cherished, to try to make it absolutely miserable for their employees to be there in every way possible.”

Current store hours are 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., but Allen said employees were told their hours were reduced to make up for the cost of catastrophe pay during the freeze in February.

“I have some thoughts and opinions about math on that, given that the person who is stationed on register can generally sell about enough product in half an hour to cover their own paycheck for the day,” Allen said.

Starbucks district manager Susan Smith Nixon referred The Daily Texan to Starbucks’ press team for comment.

“We always schedule what we believe the store needs based on customer behaviors,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. “That may mean a change in the hours available, but to say we are cutting hours wouldn’t be accurate.”

Amanda Garcia, a sociology sophomore and Starbucks employee, said the store managers have also increased their disciplinary actions for the employees, specifically regarding punctuality. Garcia said before employees announced their plans to unionize, management did not heavily enforce timeliness given complicated student schedules, but a shift occurred after the announcement.

Garcia and Allen both said employees at the store had to re-review and re-sign the rules and documents the employees received when they were first hired. Starting March 31, managers said they would recommit to enforcing company policy because they did not previously enforce rules as heavily due to the pandemic, Allen said.

Before this, Garcia said employees had a five-minute grace period to clock-in.

“They made us watch this new video, saying that there is no grace period, so even if you’re a minute late or two minutes late, that is basis to be written up,” Garcia said. “That’s what happened with one of our partners who was fired. She was just a couple minutes late.”

The fired employee declined requests to comment.

The Starbucks press team said employees are disciplined the same no matter their interest in unionizing.

“A partner’s interest in union representation does not exempt them from the standards we’ve put in place to protect partners, customers and the communities that we serve,” the Starbucks spokesperson said.

Organizers submitted union cards and a petition on March 11 to the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election for the store to officially unionize, but employees have not yet received ballots to vote, Allen said.

Garcia said two or three employees have put in their two-week notices because of the way management is treating employees. Garcia said she fears more employees quitting or being fired will affect their vote to unionize.

“Sometimes the situations (at Starbucks) aren’t ideal, which again, I want to emphasize that’s why we’re unionizing,” Garcia said. “It’s not because we hate Starbucks or we hate our job, it’s because we love our job. We love our coworkers, and that’s why we want to unionize, because we want to make it a better place to work at.”