By Jeremy Beren / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(Scottsdale, Ariz.) — A Starbucks barista in Scottsdale this week has said she was fired for attempting to organize and hold a unionizing vote at her store.
Per her Twitter account, Laila Dalton is an Arizona State student majoring in Mass Media & Communication. At 16 years old, Dalton began working for Starbucks, and she was most recently employed at the Scottsdale Road and Mayo Boulevard location.
Inspired by events in Buffalo, New York, Dalton and her coworkers began an organizing push. They soon ran afoul of management, which warned Dalton (now 19) about recording conversations with leadership and further claimed she had been in violation of the café's COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
After noticing two district managers in her Starbucks on Monday afternoon, Dalton tweeted at 1:48 p.m. that she had been fired. However, she predicted the unionization push at her former store would be successful, and she has remained active on social media since her termination.
NewsBreak sent multiple messages to Dalton requesting comment following her firing, but these messages went unanswered.
In an interview published Wednesday, Dalton explained how these most recent events unfolded. She said that she was served a notice of separation for "interfering with the operations of (the) store," ostensibly through recording her conversations with management. Dalton made it a point to tie her dismissal to returning Starbucks CEO emeritus Howard Schultz, who held a virtual town hall for Starbucks employees the day she lost her job.
"On Saturday, I’d gotten harassed by two district managers as well," Dalton said. "That day, they asked me if I have ever recorded (a phone call or video) without anyone’s consent — even though Arizona is a one-party consent state ... I’ve been so public in the media. I’ve told them that I’m always recording, not that I’d need their permission under Arizona law. They clearly don’t know the law and it was clearly retaliation: it was the day before our ballots went out and it was an hour after Howard (Schultz) got in."
At his town hall on Monday, Schultz — who has a net worth of roughly $4 billion according to most estimates — made it clear on which side of the fence Starbucks corporate stands.
"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," he said.
Starbucks Corp. is spending millions to respond to the unionization "assault," but it is failing to stop more and more stores from organizing. Workers at two Starbucks stores in Mesa have already voted to unionize, while at least four other locations in Arizona have filed for union elections — including Dalton's store in Scottsdale.
Starbucks's obvious displeasure can be seen in its decision Tuesday to remove top attorney Rachel González from her role after paying her more than $5 million last year. And the decision to fire Dalton this week saw the company slapped with a charge from the National Labor Relations Board, which maintains that Starbucks fired her because of her labor organizing activities.
The charge reads that Starbucks, at a corporate level, "has interfered with, restrained, and coerced its employees ... by coercively interrogating employees whom the Employer knows to be members or supporters of Workers United, a labor organization, concerning their conversations with other employees, and by discharging employee Laila Dalton because of her activities in support of Workers United."