On July 22, more than 100 workers, community members and union activists gathered outside the Starbucks at Ditmars Blvd and 31st Street in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York to protest the wrongful dismissal of Austin Locke, a worker recently fired by the coffee chain for union activity. The rally was coordinated by Starbucks Workers United, Restaurant Workers Union, the Democratic Socialists of America, Left Voice and Socialist Alternative, and brought together organizations including the Amazon Labor Union, New York Cannabis Workers Union and the Party for the socialism and liberation, among others. Local politicians such as New York State Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani and New York City Council member Tiffany Cabán were also present.

On June 8, Locke reported a shift supervisor to human resources and the district manager for getting hold of him to prevent him from performing a mandatory COVID check-in before starting his first shift after recovering. of COVID. Locke, a six-year Starbucks employee, had been active in the organizing effort at the Astoria site, with his store winning its June 30 union election. Five days after the election, Starbucks fired Locke for “making a false statement” against the supervisor. , although a colleague confirmed that she heard the supervisor admit to pushing Locke. SWU views Locke’s firing as retaliation for his role in the successful union organizing drive.

‘What’s disgusting? Break the union!’

The action began with a picket in front of the store, with organizers leading supporters up and down the block, chanting, “What’s disgusting? Break-union! Several times during the picket, police intervened to tell protesters to clear space in front of the Starbucks store for customers to enter.

During the rally, other wrongfully fired workers spoke of advancing the class struggle to address the conditions workers face.

“Wrestling is inseparable from our lives. The purpose of this fight is not to erase the struggle, but to ensure that our struggle is rewarded,” said Zakaria Khafagy, president of the newly formed New York Cannabis Workers Union, who was recently fired for organizing his workplace, CBD Kratom. “Why am I working 40 hours a week to pay $500 for a room in an apartment, only to have no money left to feed myself?” Why? Why am I supposed to make a million dollars a month for this greedy cannabis company when all they want is to wear us down? Why?”

Crowd of supporters in front of Starbucks. Release Photo: Amanda Yee.

‘You come for a worker, you come for all of us’

As SWU demands Locke’s reinstatement with back pay and compensation for harassment and unlawful dismissal, its members and other rally organizers also expressed the need for solidarity among all workers to confront the common enemy of the capitalist class. .

“Across industries, bosses and capitalists are facing a widespread economic crisis and must squeeze workers even harder to continue to survive as a class,” Locke said. “So I’m not just here to highlight my fight at Starbucks. Starbucks employees are just one link in an entire production chain that spans the globe. »

Locke went on to highlight exploitation across the entire global coffee supply chain.

“Each day, coffee beans from Starbucks Coffee are grown and picked by farm workers who earn a dollar a day in Asia, Africa, Central and South America,” he explained. “These beans are packaged, shipped by factory and transport workers around the world working long hours in the heat, and then they come to us, the baristas at Starbucks, where we put everything together and serve you the final product.”

Other union organizers echoed Locke’s feelings of solidarity.

“United we stand, divided we fall,” said Gerald Bryson, co-founder of Amazon Labor Union, which recently won a lawsuit against the tech giant to reinstate him with back pay. , after being fired for union organizing. “All unions must support each other. We are all brothers and sisters in the same fight.

Despite his dismissal, Locke remained resolute and unwavering in his commitment to the working class.

“When we are united and fight back, they cannot touch us,” he said. “You come for a worker, you come for all of us.”

To support Locke, consider signing the SWU Commitment and donate to GoFundMe.