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Starbucks staff say managers left a mess in their store during strike

A large sign posted across a tent outside of the Starbucks on East Houston & St. Mary's. It reads "Stop Unfair Labor Practices! Respect Our Union".
Josh Peck
A sign posted outside the Starbucks on East Houston and St. Mary's during the workers' three-day strike in mid-December.

Workers at a Starbucks at East Houston and St. Mary’s streets in downtown San Antonio went on strike two weeks ago in a nationally-coordinated action.

They later learned that during the strike, managers had opened the store. The workers claimed that the managers left it in a state of chaos — committing health code violations and doing other things they said would get any worker fired.

Workers who showed up to open on Monday morning, according to organizer Seiya Wayment, discovered open containers of lemonade and dairy products that had attracted flies and curdled.

They also found dirty ovens, a torn down Pride flag in the backroom, and piles of trash bags over the store, including near food products. They said the bags blocked a door that forced boxes of perishable food from the morning delivery to be left out at room temperature for hours.

Wayment, who uses the "they" pronoun, believed that what workers walked into seemed purposeful.

“Some of it felt pretty personally malicious, like it wasn’t just that they left a mess — which I think is disrespectful of our workplace — but we have a Pride flag in our backroom and they ripped it down,” they said. “Just things like that where you can’t say that there’s any good intention behind that.”

TPR was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the images offered by Starbucks workers.

Boxes, bags of trash, and tall carts fill the backroom of the Starbucks on East Houston and St. Mary's street, blocking up the entrance.
Starbucks Workers United
Part of the mess workers say management left behind when they opened the store during the three-day strike. TPR was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the images offered by Starbucks workers.

Wayment said during the strike, workers watched managers neglect to use gloves or wash their hands between taking out the trash and serving customers. They also said workers on Monday discovered that the syrups left out that they say would have been used for customers’ drinks on Sunday had already expired by then.

“They left [out] expired product like mocha sauce,” Wayment said. “They were all out of date, all the ones they were using.”

A Starbucks representative said all allegations against the store were untrue, that all staff who worked during strikes around the country followed store policies and health codes, and that Starbucks Workers United, the organization representing union Starbucks workers nationally, was spreading “misleading claims.”

Trash and boxes crammed onto a trash can inside the store.
Starbucks Workers United
Trash workers say management left in the store when they opened it during the three-day strike in mid-December. TPR was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the images offered by Starbucks workers.

The representative said similar allegations have been echoed at other stores around the country, and that it was a manufactured effort by Starbucks Workers United to keep customers and other workers from crossing picket lines.

The Starbucks workers on Monday morning had to throw out all of the perishable items left out overnight, as well as the boxes of food that had been delivered that morning, according to Wayment. They said workers also had to rewash many dishes that hadn’t been washed properly the first time.

“It was pretty nasty, not to mention they didn’t stock stuff and things they would expect us to do that’s not icky — just things you would do if you were closing the store,” Wayment said.

Wayment said the workers planned to speak with management about the situation the next time they see them, but that they have dodged attempts to speak since the weekend.

Trash left in the store overnight on the floor.
Starbucks Workers United
Trash workers say was left overnight by management during the three-day strike. TPR was unable to independently confirm the authenticity of the images offered by Starbucks workers.

“The person who’s currently managing our store — they were there for less than five minutes on any of these days,” they said. “They do payroll on Monday, so they had to physically come and check our book, but they literally just grabbed it and went out the door and said 'bye.' They wouldn’t talk to us.”

Managers have scarcely been in the store since its workers unionized, according to Wayment.

“Previously when we had that different store manager, they would have been in the store for more than an eight-hour shift on a Monday,” they said.

Wayment said the store workers walked into on Monday was so bad that they’re considering filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

“We’re definitely going to submit everything we have to our lawyer and talk about which things of those are specifically considered either retaliation or change of working conditions, considering that management hasn’t been in the store or helping us like they normally would,” Wayment said.

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