Long Island Starbucks Workers March on Boss Who Fired One of Their Own

Issue 281

Former store manager who landed a cushy job at corporate headquarters after sacking a union activist confronted by outraged workers.

Elsie Carson-Holt Aug 1, 2023

Yesterday, baristas from Farmingville Starbucks in Long Island and their union allies marched on the Starbucks regional corporate headquarters in Manhattan to demand the reinstatement of a shift leader who they say was fired for his union activity — and to confront their former boss who sacked him. 

Brendan Lopez was an outspoken leader in the fight to get his Farmingville Starbucks unionized. He participated in every strike at the store and advocated for the union in the media. His efforts were successful — the Farmingville location unionized last summer in a 13-1 decision, making them the first location in Suffolk County to unionize. Lopez was on the job at Starbucks for almost two years, and was working as a shift supervisor when he was fired on June 14 by the company, allegedly for mishandling cash tips. Lopez, his fellow baristas and Starbucks Workers United say that he was actually fired due to his role as a union leader.

Starbucks workers face down a corporate culture that protects managers who bully their workers. 

Brendan Lopez’s manager, Joey Criscione, was responsible for his termination. While Lopez was fired, Criscione received a promotion to work at the corporate office in an administrative position. Along with retaliative firing, workers at Farmingville allege that he spoke to them inappropriately, using profane language, and intimidated partners. 

Lopez and five other baristas from Farmingville met up yesterday morning at the Starbucks Workers United headquarters in Chelsea before marching to the Starbucks corporate office a few blocks away to confront Criscione, and to announce they were engaged in an unfair labor practice strike, a form of concerted activity protected under labor law. The workers, along with SBWU organizers, made their opposition to Lopez’s firing and Starbucks’ union-busting practices heard. 

Watch Farmingville, Long Island Starbucks workers confront management. Video by Owen Schacht.

“We are the workers of Farmingville Starbucks, and we are exercising our right to strike with Starbucks Workers United. We have several grievances with respect to the unjust firing of our shift supervisor and good friend Brandon Lopez,” Tori Hewitt said through a bullhorn, as Starbucks corporate employees looked on. “Additionally, we want to call attention to improper training, union busting, and Starbuck’s refusal to bargain for a contract, which includes  fair disciplinary procedures and accountability for inappropriate behavior from our previous manager Joey Criscione.” 

According to Lopez, Criscione retreated into the back of the office as soon as he saw his former employees show up at his new workplace. 

Lopez and his Farmingville co-workers assert that Criscione did not properly train Lopez on cash tips, and point out that the company found no conclusive evidence of theft. He was not offered any re-training or given any other disciplinary measure. 

“I do believe that I was targeted for union activity as well.” Lopez told The Indypendent. Starbucks Workers United filed an unfair labor practice grievance with the National Labor Relations Board on July 27 due to Lopez’s firing. 

Farmingville workers after confronting management. Their store unionized in July 2022. Photo by Owen Schacht.

Hewitt, a barista at the Farmingville location, also thinks Lopez was terminated due to his public role as a union leader. “They [Starbucks] would target people to fire, especially if they were friends with somebody who was big in the union, or they were big in the union.”

Along with Lopez’s firing, the workers who demonstrated yesterday say that Criscione used inappropriate language, including using homophobic language around them despite repeatedly telling him that they were uncomfortable with it.

The SBWU workers are demanding that Brendan Lopez be reinstated with full back pay.

Starbucks has engaged in an unrelenting anti-union campaign since the first Starbucks store voted to unionize in December 2021. The company has fired more than 200 workers who were active in the union. The National Labor Relations Board has since upheld 80 claims against Starbucks for its anti-union activity with dozens more under review. Despite the harsh tactics of managers like Joey Criscione, 340 Starbucks stores in the United States have unionized.

“Starbucks just protects these people. They’re willingly [going] out of their way to protect the people that they know are doing wrong,” Lopez Said. “Joey was known for making inappropriate comments. And he made that very clear that he was okay with doing it because he knew what he was gonna get away with in the end.”

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