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Commonwealth Avenue Starbucks stakeout ends, contradicting perspectives from corporate and union

Starbucks protest
A protester at the 874 Commonwealth Avenue Starbucks rally on Sept. 15. CLARE ONG/DFP STAFF

The Starbucks workers striking at 874 Commonwealth Avenue concluded their picket line on Monday night, marking the end to a 64-day stakeout demanding a new manager and better workplace policies.

Boston Starbucks Workers United wrote the strike culminated in a “victory,” in a letter posted to Twitter on Sept. 21. However, a Starbucks spokesperson wrote in an email statement the strike ended in an “unconditional return to work” and that “no negotiations were conducted with these partners for their return” for the cease of the strike. 

The Starbucks Workers Union concluded their strike in response to Starbucks’ announcement that their “minimum availability requirement” — requiring workers to be available a certain number of hours per week — would no longer apply to stores unionized on or before July 11, including the 874 Commonwealth Ave. location.

Allston Starbucks employee Kylah Clay, who participated in the strike at 874 Commonwealth Ave., said the availability requirement was a “direct retaliation for union organizing.” Several Starbucks employees involved in the strike also noted that this requirement, paired with the management tactics of their interim store manager Tomi Chorlian, put a strain on student workers.

“Tomi, the manager, wanted them to be available for 35 hours a week, even if you’re only getting scheduled 18 hours a week,” Clay said. “That jeopardized all of the BU students’ jobs, for example, because if you can only work part time or you’re in class, probably Starbucks is a great place to work with an accommodating schedule. But instead, they’ve made it much harder.”

After submitting a notice on Sept. 19 detailing their return to work, the strikers talked on the phone Tuesday with Starbucks District Manager Phil Mann about the removal of Chorlian. Several strikers corroborated that Mann assured them Chorlian would no longer be their manager.

Nora Rossi, a Starbucks shift manager at 874 Commonwealth Ave., said Mann discussed their concerns about the manager with the strikers.

“(Mann) assured us that our former store manager would not be an issue for us moving forward,” Rossi said.

Boston SBWU’s Twitter statement wrote of Chorlian’s “illegal threats of discipline or termination,” cutting hours for “long-time employees” and misalignment with Starbucks’ values in the areas of culture and respect.

Several political figures have publicly congratulated the strikers on their efforts, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders. Sanders wrote on Twitter that he was “proud to have stood on the picket line with them.”

In response to Starbucks’ statement that the strikers return to work was “unconditional,” Clay said the company is “trying to switch the narrative.” She added despite the lack of official conditions, Starbucks has addressed several of their concerns.

“Although they say that there’s been no formal negotiation, we have spoken directly to our district manager, Phil Mann, who has told us that he intends to find a replacement for Tomi,” she said. “We have full faith that he will be fulfilling that.”

Starbucks union workers at 874 Commonwealth Ave. are working alongside union lawyers to continue to negotiate and maintain fair labor practices upon their return to work.

“We’re working with lawyers in the sense that we want to make sure that we’re not getting exploited by Starbucks,” said Rossi.

Corporate Starbucks wrote in a statement they will move “forward” with scheduling collective bargaining sessions with the 874 Commonwealth Ave. location staff.  

Clay said she is still processing the end of the strike.

“It’s been a long two months,” she said. “A lot of work obviously has gone into this. A lot of heart and dedication… We know that it will have a positive impact in the labor movement, and we’re really, really proud and so thankful for our community.”

At the time of publication, 874 Commonwealth Ave. manager Tomi Chorlian, Starbucks District Manager Phil Mann and involved union lawyers did not reply to The Daily Free Press inquiries.

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