by Joel Cornell
with contributions from TN Long and Janette
Joel Cornell interviewed three union leaders of the Starbucks store at Leesburg Plaza in Leesburg, Virginia during a strike on Saturday, May 28. Among other local labor supporters was the Northern Virginia Communist Party USA (NOVA CPUSA) as well as the Northern Virginia Labor Federation (the local AFL-CIO chapter) along with their president Virginia Diamond.
In a damning admission to committing unfair labor practices, the manager of the Leesburg Plaza Starbucks confessed to retaliation, as our interview reveals.
Donate to the strike fund at https://gofund.me/4e8f2d0c
Joel Cornell: Ok, so tell me.
Stephanie Jackson: So in February our hours were cut by 100 hours, that was the start of union-busting happening at our store, and then we lost that manager, and we have a new manager
(who’s a temporary manager). She came in and cut our hours again by another hundred hours, saying that our store is overstaffed and we need to earn our hours back. We’ve emergency-closed several times for being understaffed, we’re constantly having to turn off mobile [orders], close the cafe, or close the drive-thru just to be able to function in our store. But they’re continuing to say we’re overstaffed and over-scheduled. I’ve gone personally from 40 hours [per week] to 20 hours [per week]. I know plenty of people have lost similar amounts of hours. A lot of partners are going to be ineligible for benefits from the cut hours. Our store hasn’t been deep-cleaned since February because they cut all of our cleaning hours out of our store. Our new manager hasn’t even been in to our store, what she came one time to work on the floor?
Richard Griffith: She’s come a few times… but she’s come… there’s not a sense… there’s not an actual manager. She’s temporary, she’s running two other stores. We don’t have someone who can actually commit time to managing the store, so it’s impossible to do an effective job. And we reach out, we’ve had the supervisors (of which there are four, I’m one of them) have meetings with the district manager and the temporary store manager, and when I ask about the cut hours, I was told we need to get things back up and running first before that happens, and that’s just not possible. We need to invest in labor for things to improve because we can’t run the store on this skeleton crew that they’re trying to run it on.
Stephanie: They told us we had to earn our hours back, and by “earning our hours” is having all modes of operation open in the store. We are unable to do that because we are understaffed and our hours have been cut so bad; we’re constantly having to close. So it’s kinda ridiculous to say we have to “earn our hours” anyway, but we’re not able to earn our hours by the way they want us to.
Jaimee Brooks: Meanwhile, they’re shutting off mobile [orders] at the stores around us to put more pressure on us, ‘cause we get all that business.
Joel: And this is in response to organizing?
Jaimee: Yep, that’s what we believe. It really feels like they’re trying to put us through such bad working conditions that we all quit, it really feels like that.
Stephanie: When I asked my temporary manager the other day why my hours were cut, and I told her it felt like retaliation against me, she said, and [I] quote, “This schedule was made before any retaliation or anything like that happened.”
Joel: So there is retaliation?
Stephanie: Yes, there is.
Stephanie: Yes, there is. Yes.
“This schedule was made before any retaliation or anything like that happened.”
Joel: Is there anything in particular which sparked this (this protest in particular)?
Jaimee: The cutting of hours. That’s what this is about.
Richard: Yeah, this is about the cutting of hours.
Stephanie: Because this week’s schedule and the week after, we’ve all had significant cuts to our hours. I know I’ve personally [been] cut 20 hours.
Jaimee: I’ve was cut 15 hours.
Richard: I was cut 10 hours.
Joel: Do you guys have a strike fund?
Stephanie: We do have a strike fund.
Richard: We have a GoFundMe set up. We’re looking to post that wherever we can. We’re all posting it on our social media. Wherever you put this, if you could be able to put that [there].
Joel: What are the best ways neighbors and customers can help?
Richard: Coming by and just vocalizing your support. Obviously the GoFundMe, financial support is good. Call Starbucks corporate.
Stephanie: Tell them we want to restore our hours. Tell them to sign the fair election process.
Richard: Complain to corporate in any way you can. Tell them to stop union-busting. Tell them to stop. Tell them to actually be fair and to try and bargain with us. We voted to unionize, and that went successful, but now they’re stalling. Now they’re trying to dissuade us. They’re trying to make us quit.
Stephanie: It feels like they want us all to quit so they can bring in new people.
Joel: Yeah, classic.