Jul 28, 2023 | News Story

Federal Judge Finds Starbucks Illegally Fired NYC Union Leader, Orders Reinstatement and Back Pay

On Monday, federal labor board judge Benjamin Green ruled that Starbucks violated the law when it terminated NYC employee and union leader Rhythm Heaton (they/them) in August 2022 over purported time and attendance violations. Green affirmed instead that Heaton was illegally terminated for their union activities, stating that he found Heaton to be “an extremely credible witness” and found it “particularly suspicious” that Starbucks would discharge “an excellent employee at a time when the short-handed Astor Place store was already advertising to hire another shift supervisor."

Heaton was hired at the Astor Place location in 2018 and was promoted to shift supervisor in 2021. They were an early leader in the effort to unionize Starbucks as part of Workers United in NYC. The judge has ordered that Heaton receive an offer of reinstatement, back pay and a posting of an Employee Notice in the Astor Place location, stating that Heaton will be offered reinstatement and be “made whole,” as well as that the company will not “discharge or otherwise discriminate against you for your union support and activities.”

“I’m incredibly happy and overjoyed by the outcome of this case,"' said Heaton. "It feels surreal after almost a year, but I’m glad that this clear display of union busting was put to a stop. We unionized my store over a year ago, and there no doubt have been hardships since then, but both winning this case and seeing all the inspiring actions of other Starbucks union members everyday gives me renewed energy and hope for the future of our union.” Read more from Reuters.