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Vancouver Starbucks barista fired for union support

November 15, 2023
Starbucks Fires Pro-Union Partner

Frédérique Martineau, a dedicated Starbucks partner and shift supervisor for almost five years, was fired due to her outspoken support for unionization among Starbucks workers, according to Starbucks management. Martineau, who had recently been transferred to the 16th and MacDonald Street store after the closure of the unionized Dunbar Starbucks, expressed her disappointment and sense of betrayal over her termination.

“Disappointed, sad, angry and betrayed, that’s how I’m feeling right now after being fired and humiliated in front of store customers,” said Martineau.

In February 2023, Martineau helped organize the Starbucks on Dunbar Street in Vancouver, which became the first Starbucks in Vancouver to successfully unionize since the late 2000s.

“I was told by another shift supervisor that I needed to have a conversation with the store managers, so I took off my apron and joined the managers in the café lobby of our busy store. In front of customers, the store managers accused me of complaining to other partners about reduced hours, while I was only seeking to understand if other baristas were experiencing similar reductions as I was no longer being utilized as a shift supervisor and was down to 12 hours a week working as a barista which caused me to lose my benefits,” said Martineau.

Martineau persisted in raising concerns about her decreased hours in contrast to her co-workers’ increased schedules, as well as the hiring and training of new baristas and shift supervisors. Store management further alleged that multiple employees had filed complaints about profanity and discomfort stemming from Martineau’s discussions about her previous unionized store experience.

“Management’s allegations are absolutely not true and unfounded. In the five years that I have worked at Starbucks, I have never had a warning or any note in my file. I have always had exemplary conduct,” said Martineau. “As a nursing student, I have amazing restraint and I always have maintained a professional appearance and attitude. I’d be very interested in seeing the proof or video footage of the alleged incidents because it seems to me that Starbucks is simply worried about other stores unionizing. I’ve been painted with a giant target, so Starbucks thinks if they get rid of me that will solve their problems.”

When Martineau and her co-workers were going through the unionization process, they were interrogated by Starbucks managers.

“It’s no secret that Starbucks is opposed to unions and Starbucks is doing everything in its power to push back on unionizing efforts by closing stores and firing partners. All you need to do is look at the hundreds of violations and unfair labour practice complaints against the company in both Canada and the United States,” said Martineau. “When our store unionized, it seemed like everyone and their dog from Starbucks showed up at our store to put pressure on the workers.”

Martineau says they are proud of the success and the positive changes that followed at the Dunbar store, despite the store closing.

“Even though we didn’t reach the point of negotiating a first contract, because of our union we won positive changes, such as new equipment and better working conditions. We even got wage increases owed to us that Starbucks was withholding in its effort to punish us and deter other partners from joining unions,” said Martineau.

Even after her termination, Martineau continues to advocate for Starbucks partners to voice their concerns and shape their workplace conditions.

“When I chose to join the USW, I did so to improve our workplace safety, seek better wages and demand better staffing to protect the mental health of our partners in our store. I’m very proud of what we achieved together, and I really do love working at Starbucks. I honestly believe that we can continue winning better rights for all baristas in North America, and not just Starbucks baristas,” said Martineau. “Look, if I was offered a job back at Starbucks, I’d go back in a heartbeat. I am really good at my job. I just loved making the drinks and talking to my regulars and I had so much fun doing that. But at the same time, I will never shy away from standing up and fighting for workers.”

“The USW stands in solidarity with Frédérique and all Starbucks workers who seek to exercise their right to organize and collectively bargain,” said Scott Lunny, USW District Director for Western Canada. “It is imperative that workers feel empowered to advocate for fair wages, benefits and working conditions without fear of retaliation.”

USW encourages Starbucks to reconsider its decision to terminate Frédérique Martineau and engage in constructive dialogue with workers regarding their concerns. The union remains committed to advocating for the rights and well-being of all Starbucks partners.

The USW represents Starbucks workers at stores in Victoria, Surrey and Langley in British Columbia and Calgary, Edmonton and Sherwood Park in Alberta, as well as recently organized stores in Waterloo, Ajax and Kitchener in Ontario. The USW also represents 225,000 members in nearly every economic sector across Canada and is the largest private-sector union in North America, with 850,000 members in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean.

Each year, thousands of workers choose to join the USW because of our strong track record in creating healthier, safer and more respectful workplaces and negotiating better working conditions and fairer compensation – including good wages, benefits and pensions.

Starbucks workers interested in joining the USW can learn more about the benefits at betterworknow.ca/starbucks.

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Media Contact

Frédérique Martineau
Former Starbucks partner
USW Local 2009 member
778-996-3206

Brett Barden
USW Communications
604-445-6956
bbarden@usw.ca

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