Then there were the write-ups. In mid-February, Slopsema, a barista at the Barn, was given a final warning – the last step before being fired. The reason given was that the store safe was found unlocked after one of his shifts, as well as a failure to lock the store. According to Slopsema, the safe’s latch was broken, an issue he raised with his bosses weeks before the incident. In a recording of a conversation about the warning obtained by the Guardian, Slopsema can be heard expressing shock at the severity of the punishment.
“I’ve never received a written warning before,” he said in the recording, “so it’s kind of upsetting to see that it’s just a final right off the bat after working here for four years.
He takes responsibility for leaving the store unlocked – he blames it on a mental lapse – but pushes back regarding the safe. “I’ve also showed that the safe itself needs to be worked on,” he can be heard saying to his manager. “It doesn’t shut properly. Unless you really press on to it, it will just open back up, but I’ve already connected with you on that.”
Two weeks later, Sellaro received her own final warning after she left her keys in her apron, hanging in the back, locked in the store overnight. Sellaro thought so little of her oversight with the keys that she subsequently mentioned it to her boss. Nothing happened for more than two weeks, at which point she was informed that she was one step from being terminated.
Below a final warning are two less severe disciplinary levels. Both she and Slopsema had worked at Starbucks for years and never been written up for any infraction (Andrews now suspects that his encounter with the company investigator would have led to a final warning had he not quit on the spot). Both were known to be leading union advocates. Sellaro called it intimidation. “If it was so egregious, why didn’t you say something to me sooner?” she said.
After baristas at the Barn went on strike in early March, messages from the company became more direct. “Please vote and vote NO,” read a letter distributed to employees. Another letter from around that time accused the workers and their supporters of physically intimidating and yelling obscenities at customers during the walkout and strike. The letter urged employees to vote against the union. It was signed by Andrea Streedain, Starbucks’ regional vice-president for the mountain west.
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