PHOENIX — Two dozen chanting protesters greeted customers in the drive-thru line Tuesday at a Starbucks in North Scottsdale.
The protesters chanted "Reinstate Laila."
Union organizer Laila Dalton is fighting to get her job back, after being fired on Monday. A union vote at the store was scheduled to start Tuesday and run for two weeks.
"I want Starbucks to stop their cruel union-busting and stop hurting young adults," said Dalton, a 19-year-old who started working at the coffee giant when she was 17.
"This whole time I've been treated so unfairly and I should have a voice," Dalton said in an interview.
She vowed to get her job back. "I know that I will be reinstated."
She'll Lose Starbucks' Funding for ASU
The firing will cost Dalton more than her job: Starbucks is paying for her online college education at Arizona State University, where she's majoring in mass media and communications.
"Not immediately, but it will be taken away for my next semester," Dalton said.
Starbucks falsely accused her of illegally taping a conversation between two people, according to Dalton. Arizona is a so-called "one-party" consent state where only one party on a call has to consent to a taping.
She said she was taping a conversation with a manager.
"Only I have to consent to it, as long as I'm participating in the recording," Dalton said. "Five minutes before that, they gave me a final written warning about something totally different. It was created March 18. But I just got it yesterday. So they were really planning on firing me for a while."
'Enforcing policies consistently'
A Starbucks spokesperson provided this statement on Dalton's firing:
"A partner's interest in a union does not exempt them from the standards we have always held. We will continue enforcing our policies consistently for all partners."
Starbucks workers are part of a small but growing nationwide push to revive unions.
Employees at 10 Starbucks stores - including one in Mesa - have voted to join the Workers United union.
The retail colossus Amazon now has its first union at a New York warehouse.
The workers' demands: better wages, benefits and working conditions.
NLRB Ruled Against Starbucks
Starbucks has already lost a round in its battle with Dalton.
Last month, the National Labor Relations Board said Dalton was illegally punished by Starbucks for raising concerns about labor issues at her store. The next step is a June hearing before an administrative law judge.
The Starbucks spokesperson responded: "We are committed to following the NLRB process. Any claims of anti-union activity are categorically false."
The same day Dalton was fired, Starbucks interim Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz warned an employee town hall about "the threat of unionization."
"We can't ignore what is happening in the country as it relates to companies throughout the country being assaulted, in many ways, by the threat of unionization," Schultz said, according to a clip posted by More Perfect Union
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