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Ex-Starbucks Worker Jaysin Saxton Describes Being Fired After He Helped Organize Union

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We speak with Jaysin Saxton, one of the witnesses who testified at the Senate hearing Wednesday on Starbucks’ union-busting record. Saxton was a former Starbucks shift manager, fired after leading the union drive at a store in Augusta, Georgia. He tells Democracy Now! he and fellow workers were motivated to organize their store to address the “insane” working conditions, including understaffing and inconsistent schedules. “There’s no stability in how much you’re earning and how many hours you’re getting, so you can’t afford to pay your bills, and you have to choose between gas and food,” says Saxton.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Starbucks worker Jaysin Saxton also testified at the hearing.

JAYSIN SAXTON: In April, our store won our election by a landslide, 26 to 5, despite all of the threats and intimidation. Starbucks’ retaliation and union busting ramped up even more after we won our election. We were constantly being watched, and managers listened in on our conversations through our headsets. Store hours were constantly changing, and hours kept getting cut. People were fired right on the shop floor. They fired seven of our union members. Two of them were shift supervisors. Two partners requested medical and maternity leave. Management refused to sign off on their leave, and they were terminated. Several people quit, including my wife. Some of us were told that we should look for another job. In July, I led a two-day unfair labor practice strike and delivered our demands. A month later, I was fired for supposedly being disruptive.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former Starbucks worker Jaysin Saxton testifying Wednesday before the Senate. He joins us now from Augusta, Georgia.

Jaysin, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about the significance of this hearing and the grilling of the — well, usually everyone thinks of him as the Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, but, in fact, he just resigned.

JAYSIN SAXTON: Yeah. Thank you for having me.

You know, yesterday’s hearing was a very interesting few hours. Howard Schultz did what he always does and, you know, misrepresented what was actually going on in the stores. And maybe that’s just because he doesn’t know, even though he said he came back for operations and for customers, even though he constantly says he’s there for the partners.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Give us some background, your own story. What happened in July? What led to your being fired last July from the Augusta, Georgia, Starbucks store where you were working?

JAYSIN SAXTON: Yeah. So, at my store, we decided that we were going to unionize because we were facing a lot of staffing issues, people’s hours kept getting cut, the training was insufficient, healthcare coverage was too expensive. Still it’s too expensive. And myself, personally, went on parental leave so my wife and I could have our daughter. And it was insufficient. It was just long enough for us develop postpartum depression and then have to go right back to work.

So, we went forward with that, and we kept dealing with those issues after our election. And that is also when they started firing a lot of us. And they fired a shift supervisor, and so we decided to do a walkout, which led to a two-day strike. And after that two-day strike, I went back to work, everything was good, went on vacation and came back, and I was fired. And they said that I was being disruptive. Now, again, on the day of the walkout, I wasn’t being disruptive. And not only that, I wasn’t a partner. I wasn’t working at the time. I was off the clock.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And what’s your sense, Jaysin, from the other employees at that store, but also at Starbucks stores elsewhere, if you said — you mentioned some of them now, but what working conditions are like for Starbucks employees? What precisely are the health benefits they get — you said it’s very expensive — time off, how many hours a week they work? If you could just say, you know, what are those conditions?

JAYSIN SAXTON: I mean, the conditions are insane, right? So, a partner, which is what Starbucks calls their employees, can work one week 25 hours, and the next week work five hours. So there’s no stability in how much you’re earning and how many hours you’re getting, so you can’t afford to pay your bills, and you have to choose between gas and food. The other working conditions, like on the shop floor, would be, you know, if you’re down in warming, you could burn yourself consistently. And that happens a lot with a lot of the products that go in the ovens. You know, we’re constantly moving rapidly and constantly understaffed and having to meet the goals that Starbucks wants us to meet, which is 45-to-60-second out-the-window times, you know, for drive-thru.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you something, Jaysin. I think the number is something like 293 Starbucks stores have voted to organize, of the 9,000, and seems to be going across the country. Howard Schultz was grilled about the bargaining sessions, something like there have been 85, but in many of those cases, is it true the Starbucks officials walk out within 15 minutes?

JAYSIN SAXTON: So, I don’t have any firsthand experience, because Starbucks has refused to negotiate with my store. But from what I have heard from other locations is that, yes, they — it’s been six minutes at one bargaining session. And it’s simply because they don’t like that there are people on Zoom, which I think it’s funny. Howard Schultz said during the hearing that they didn’t want extra people to be in the background on the Zoom calls, but, like, you’re constantly listening to us and surveilling us when we’re working, and then using that to terminate us and write us up. You know, and then also Starbucks policy allows customers to come in and record us all day long, and we can’t do anything about it.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, you testified before the Senate. But, as we wrap up, your final comment, not only to Starbucks workers around the country, but for people to understand — Starbucks is obviously a global corporation — about what people should know about Starbucks?

JAYSIN SAXTON: I think the biggest thing that people should know about Starbucks is that while they tout themselves as a progressive company, while they tout that they’re partner-first, their actions, and even in Howard Schultz’s words yesterday, don’t show that they actually care to listen and understand. That direct relationship that Howard Schultz says he wants is just so they can continue to dictate what they want to do, and not actually give the partners a chance to say what’s going on in their store and what they need to be whole.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Jaysin Saxton, we want to thank you for being with us, former Starbucks shift manager, terminated after leading the union drive at a Starbucks store in Augusta, Georgia. He testified on Wednesday before the Senate HELP Committee, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

This is Democracy Now!, When we come back, filmmaker Jennifer Fox joins us. Five years ago, she made a remarkable film about a coach that abused her as a child. Now she’s named him, Ted Nash, the legendary Olympic rower and coach. She’ll join us. Stay with us.

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