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Starbucks New York Worker Says She Was Fired For Union Activity

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June 10, 2005

A worker at a Starbucks in New York City is claiming she was fired for encouraging others to join a union. Sarah Bender was a barista at the 17th Street and 1st Avenue store. She says she became interested in joining the Retail Workers Union, a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, after she heard about successes at the Madison Ave and 36th Street shop. The battle on Madison Avenue has led to Starbucks being called before the National Labor Relations Board on charges of union busting and threatening employees. Bender says once she brought up unions with her coworkers, similar actions occurred.

[Bender1]: Workers at my own store where getting interrogated and having closed door meetings with the manager. Some people were getting threatened to not get promoted if they were involved with me or involved with the union. A lot of things went on for about eight months before I got fired.

The company says it fired Bender because of repeated write-ups and $6 missing from her cash drawer. Bender says she never saw a write-up before it was found out she was organizing for the union and that the $6 she was fired for wasn't missing the night before she was fired. She added that Starbucks and many other retail companies don't acknowledge that their employees are individuals who depend on those jobs to make a living.

[Bender2]: This campaign really is about demanding more and changing people's minds about the worth of these kinds of jobs. Making people realize that without these people on the front line - selling and taking the money and selling the product - these companies would be nothing.

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