Striking Starbucks employees talk to a woman who wanted to use the drive-thru but was turned away on Wednesday on Broadway in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Striking Starbucks employees talk to a woman who wanted to use the drive-thru but was turned away on Wednesday on Broadway in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Everett Starbucks workers go on strike after employee fired

The employee and her fellow union members claim she was fired for supporting the union. Starbucks denies it.

EVERETT — Employees at a Starbucks on Broadway went on strike after a coworker was fired Tuesday.

About a dozen people picketed Wednesday morning on the sidewalk at 37th Street and Broadway near the shop. The usual line of cars waiting in the drive-thru was gone. And no one could be spotted sitting inside. The store was closed to customers.

Artemis Moraine has worked at the store for three years. She said she went to work as usual for a 7 a.m. shift Tuesday. When her manager and a Starbucks district manager walked in, Moraine made their drinks.

Then they asked to speak with her in the back room, where they fired her, she said.

Moraine, a single mother, said management pointed to attendance incidents in October and May, but she also believes it was retaliation for her support of the Starbucks Workers United union. During both incidents, Moraine said, she had panic attacks and left work before her shift was over, and without finding someone to cover her schedule. The Mayo Clinic describes panic attacks as feeling intense fear that can make people feel like they are having a heart attack or dying.

“They pulled me out at the busiest time of the day to have this conversation,” said Moraine, 31. “I sat out in the cafe for about an hour, sobbing.”

Then she left with some of the other workers to talk about it. Within hours, there was a call to go on strike, which started Tuesday afternoon and was expected to last until Thursday.

A Starbucks spokesperson said the employee’s firing wasn’t because of Moraine’s labor rights support.

“Any claims of anti-union activity are categorically false,” the spokesperson said.

On June 1, the Starbucks Workers United union formed after a 14-1 vote. About 25 people work at the Broadway location, two current employees said.

“I don’t think they expected us to strike,” said Tom Bosserman, a barista and trainer at the store for three years. “Whether it’s a two-day strike or a two-week strike, we just had to make our point.”

Jacob Fullerton, a union organizer and a store supervisor, said the store was already understaffed and managers talked about reducing its hours.

The company reported record sales in the second quarter amid lower profit hit by higher labor costs, The Associated Press reported in May. Revenue rose 15% to a record $7.6 billion, and net earnings rose 2% to $674 million.

Starbucks workers across the country have sought to form unions since some at a Buffalo, New York, store did so last year. Since then, employees at 302 locations have tried, including at the Lakewood Crossing store in Marysville, according to Law360. The Marysville store’s union vote results are expected June 21.

They’re all seeking the right to bargain with the company over benefits and wages. At the Everett store, Bosserman said, union members want higher wages and a lower threshold for benefits.

The union also could specify how incidents like what happened to Moraine are handled. Moraine said she was outnumbered during her separation meeting and would have liked someone else there advocating for her.

For now, the union has filed with the National Labor Relations Board to have Moraine reinstated. Until then, she plans to stay involved in the union’s efforts.

“I’m really motivated to be out here and be more vocal,” Moraine said.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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