Starbucks Union Organizer Says He Was Fired for Wearing Suicide Awareness Pin

According to a Starbucks union organizer in Buffalo, he was fired for refusing to take off a mental health awareness pin he was wearing to remember a coworker who had died earlier this year.

As reported by BloombergStarbucks fired Will Westlake, a prominent union organizer. Westlake worked in one of the stores where he was fired. originally petitionedUnionization began last year, which triggered what would become an historic union drive.

The company said that he was being fired for “refusal to abide by the dress-code policy” and attendance issues. Westlake says that he has been sent home dozens of times by management after refusing to remove the pin depicting interlocked fingers with the text “You are not alone” and a URL for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

According to Westlake’s account, he and his coworkers wore suicide prevention pins in memory of a coworker who had committed suicide earlier in the year. The pins were removed by management repeatedly, and finally implemented. a new policyThese pins should be banned. However, Westlake continued to wear the pins even though coworkers had stopped wearing them.

On Twitter, Tuesday Westlake walked through the company’s alleged actions surrounding his coworker’s death, demonstrating, if true, the cruelty with which the company treats its employees.

Westlake says that, shortly before his coworker’s death, the company retaliated against her for being an original signer on the letter announcing their union effort, blocking her transfer to a store close to her college. Westlake wrote that five managers were sent by the company to her funeral and that her coworkers were forced to return to work immediately after the funeral.

“When I first decided that I was going to keep wearing the [ASFP]pin, I was certain that the company would resign. That they would see what the workers were going through, having to engage in psychological warfare over a union campaign because the company was being cruel,” Westlake wrote.

“Today I was fired, the company refused to see that firing someone for expressing solidarity with suicide prevention is wrong,” he continued. “I hadn’t been allowed to work a shift at my store for nearly 4 months. Every shift for 4 months I was sent home for wearing a suicide awareness pin.”

The union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint over Westlake’s termination, saying that the move is retaliation for being a union activist. Employers cannot retaliate against workers who wear union regalia or participate in union organizing. The company claims that it does not retaliate against employees for their union activity.

An ex-official of the labor board told BloombergThe pin could be used as a symbol for unity among unionized workers, who are often made of it. feel isolatedAnti-union tactics. President Joe Biden’s labor board has continually ruled in favor of workers’ ability to wear union insignia at work.

“An argument could be made that this button is symbolic of solidarity with folks that are burdened with these kinds of psychological pressures as a result of a hostile work environment that the union is trying to fight against,” former National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) chair Mark Pearce said.

The union says that the company has continually relied on retaliatory tactics to suppress worker organizing, including firing over 120 union activists in workers’ union campaign so far. Starbucks also closed down several stores where union activity had taken place, withheld wage increases and benefits from workers, and has done so permanently. According to the union, there are currently more than 320 unfair labor practice allegations against the company.