After exposing Starbucks boss as union-busting liar, worker gets his job back
Jaysin Saxton, a fired Starbucks Worker Leader from Augusta, Ga., testifies before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, March 29, 2023. By NLRB order, Saxton is getting his job back. | Jacquelyn Martin / AP

NEW ORLEANS—Jaysin Saxton, the Starbucks worker who exposed for the U.S. Senate and the world to see that company CEO Howard Schultz lied about not busting unions, will get his job back.

Saxton told the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists convention in New Orleans that the National Labor Relations Board ruled for him, deciding Starbucks illegally fired him from its Augusta, Ga., store last year because of his union advocacy. He’ll walk in the store door on June 7 to reclaim his post.

Once there, he declared during a series of panels on May 25 on organizing, the atmosphere in the store will be totally different “and Starbucks isn’t ready for it.”

“I can’t wait to get back.”

Saxton played a key role in exposing Starbucks’s abuses and exploitation of its workers nationally. With one other worker, Saxton followed Schultz to the witness chair earlier this year before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. There, he described in detail his mistreatment and ultimate firing from the Augusta store.

Schultz, the Starbucks founder who had just stepped down as its CEO—but who’s still on the board and is the firm’s biggest stockholder—denied then under oath that his firm ever illegally fired anyone for advocating unionizing. Saxton point by point, then and at the CBTU, exposed that lie.

Starbucks is supposed to be tolerant and friendly to customers and workers, Saxton noted. “You can get fired on the spot for cursing,” he commented. “But you can be racist or homophobic or commit sexual assault” on a worker and nothing will happen. “When partners complained, they got written warnings.” “Partners” is Starbucks’ nickname for its workers.

Starbucks boss Howard Schultz. | AP

At Augusta, Starbucks “fired the store manager we all loved” and brought in another manager “who started firing all of us ‘to make us work harder.’” The new manager also made working conditions difficult by constantly changing machines’ positions within the store. And the manager insisted workers have a “meaningful connection” with customers in a maximum of 60 seconds allowed baristas to produce coffee and food. “I don’t know anyone who could do that,” Saxton said.

The workers responded to such conditions by first staging a two-day strike in honor of the fired manager, and then unionizing, by a vote of 26 to 5, in April 2022, after Starbucks Workers United, a Service Employees sector, aided their grassroots organizing drive. Starbucks responded by firing Saxton and another organizer and forcing the workers to be “more efficient.” Half of the 40 workers have left.

But with 20 workers now doing the work of 40, the store “is on assignment” and at risk of closing. Starbucks believes the remaining workers will be afraid of unionizing, but the company will be wrong, Saxton predicted.

Bosses thought “They had fired enough of us to destroy morale.” But now the workers will “have proof” Starbucks broke labor law when Saxton returns to his job under NLRB orders. The remaining workers, he believes, will see that “Jason got fired, and now he’ll get his job back…We’re going to build it (the store) back up and give it (unionization) right back.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.