A Phoenix Starbucks Worker Pushed for a Union. Then She Was Fired.

(Photo by Jessica Swarner)

By Jessica Swarner

April 14, 2022

“I really think that this is the new era of unions for this generation.” 

Labor advocates gathered outside of a Phoenix Starbucks last week to call for a fired worker to be reinstated. 

Laila Dalton, a shift supervisor who was working to unionize the location at Scottsdale Road and Mayo Boulevard, was fired April 4, the day before union election ballots were sent out. 

The 19-year-old said she was fired after receiving warnings from her supervisors. Dalton, who had worked for the company for three years, recorded conversations between herself and managers to try to show she was being harassed. 

She said supervisors started writing her up for minor infractions days after she handed out union cards in January. She was ultimately fired for recording in the store.  

Bill Whitmire, also a shift supervisor at the store, said he felt the timing of Dalton’s firing carried meaning. 

“We feel like it’s a management tactic to try to derail our election,” he told The Copper Courier. “And we’re sending a message today that they will not derail our election. We will have our election and we will win our election and have a union.” 

Starbucks maintains that Dalton’s firing was not connected to her union activity. 

“A partner’s interest in a union does not exempt them from the standards we have always held,” a Starbucks spokesperson told The Copper Courier. “We will continue enforcing our policies consistently for all partners.” 

Last month, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a complaint against Starbucks over accusations that it retaliated against Dalton and another employee involved in unionizing, Alyssa Sanchez. 

Part of a Wave

Whitmire said after staff became concerned over scheduling and short-staffing in January, he reached out to Starbucks workers in Buffalo, New York, to ask about the process of unionizing. 

Two stores in Buffalo unionized last year, kicking off a wave of union activity in locations across the country. So far, over 200 Starbucks locations nationwide have filed for NLRB union elections.

The Phoenix store’s union ballots are due back April 19, Whitmire said. The workers haven’t been given a final date for the count yet, but he said he expects it to come a few days after. 

The location could become the third Starbucks to unionize in Arizona, following two stores in Mesa.

Dalton said she appreciated everyone who came out to support her in her efforts at the Phoenix store. “I really think that this is the new era of unions for this generation,” she told The Copper Courier. “And people are realizing that they deserve to be treated better.”

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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