A former Starbucks barista says he worked for the company at the Orlando International Airport for two years before he was fired after emerging as an organizer trying to unionize his fellow workers through the labor union Unite Here.
Gabriel Ocasio Mejias told The Guardian he was fired shortly after another organizer was fired, and he was told, in a "dimly lit area" of the airport's food court, he was being let go "over a third write-up for drinking water."
"That was their way to get rid of me, for drinking water, because they know I was one of the strongest organizers," Mejias claimed. "They targeted me specifically to create fear for my co-workers of joining the union."
Starbucks did not return requests for comment, but Mejias' story comes while a new Unite Here report claims Starbucks workers employed through HMS Host, which had exclusive rights to operate the coffee giant's stores in airports in North America until the companies ended the exclusivity deal earlier this month.
The report showed black Starbucks employees were making $1.85 an hour less than white workers, according to data from HMS Host locations from February through December of last year.
A third of the workers surveyed said they were not able to pay their rent in the past year, and 17% said they relied on food assistance benefits.
There were also several cases of LGBTQ+ discrimination reported, and one-in-four immigrant workers said they could not speak their preferred language while on the job after workers were ordered to speak only English.
HMS Host denied the report's finding and said they did not fire anyone for union activity.
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