A Cheyenne Starbucks supervisor, who was called a “scab” by unionizing coworkers for her refusal to take part in a strike in front of the downtown store Sunday, told Cowboy State Daily that there’s more to the story than the strikers are telling.
Melanie Manchester, who works as a supervisor at the Starbucks location at 2111 Central Ave., said that she doesn’t object to all the issues the striking workers raised, such as staffing levels.
“Everything else is just honestly a bunch of bullshit,” she said about claims employees are retaliated against. “It’s a bunch of mean girls who don’t like the manager, and they’re mad their complaints didn’t get her fired.”
Minors And Alcohol
Employees at the Starbucks location went on strike Sunday after filing a formal petition with the National Labor Relations Board on Sunday to hold a union election for the workers there.
The workers claimed the company is cutting their hours in retaliation for complaints, which is threatening their benefits, and not providing enough staff to meet expectations of customer service.
During the protest Sunday, Evita Rojas told Cowboy State Daily she was offered alcohol at a party workers attended last year. She was 19 at the time. She said reports to human relations about the incident went unanswered and workers’ hours were cut in retaliation for that and other complaints.
Manchester said the party was at her house, and when the issue was later raised that minors were offered alcohol at the party, Rojas told Manchester that she was never offered any alcohol.
Manchester said she believes that a lot of the complaints are being driven by one employee who was passed over repeatedly for a promotion, and this employee is driving a lot of the discontent.
Manchester said that the protest Sunday only involved about five employees at the location and the rest were union representatives.
“There was one union representative who yelled at me multiple times. They called anyone that crossed that picket line ‘bootlickers,’” Manchester said.
Manchester said customers were told that the store was closed in an effort to turn them away. One customer contacted police, and law enforcement did respond.
Manchester said police told the strikers that they had to stay off the property.
“We’re just trying to do our jobs,” she said. “We’re there for us and our paychecks.”
Manchester said that while she doesn’t dispute there can be complaints about staffing and scheduling, she said it’s not out of any retaliation.
“It's a service-based industry, and our hours are based on how much profit we make,” Manchester said.
She said people aren’t spending as much money at cafés, bars and restaurants as they were earlier this year, so the Starbucks store is currently overstaffed. Every employee is getting hours cut, she said.
“But, you know, get a second job. That’s what I did,” Manchester said.
A spokesperson for Starbucks United said that the strikers and their supporters never harassed any of the customers.
"We asked customers to honor our picket. The police did briefly visit, and we reported the use of harsh language by customers against our supporters,” the spokesperson said.
Chelsey Fletcher, a supporter who was there when the police arrived, said that one customer was hostile toward protestors and made some rude comments. None of the protestors, she said, harassed any customers.
She said Starbucks provides great benefits and the pay is good.
“I appreciate everything they do for me, and I do not want to unionize,” Manchester said.
Starbucks Workers United, the union representing the workers at Starbucks stores that have unionized, have failed to negotiate a contract for the workers.
She said she doesn’t believe the dues they charge will produce any benefits for workers, and their efforts will have an overall negative impact on employees.
“I’m going to be stuck where I am. No more raises. No more stock grants that I get every year,” Manchester said.
She said there are six of about 14 employees at the store who didn’t sign the union authorization cards required before filing for an official vote.
“We're being bullied into it,” Manchester said.
Andrew Trull, Starbucks senior manager of corporate communications, told Cowboy State Daily that the average wage of Starbucks employees is $17.50 per hour. Total compensation with benefits, which includes medical, dental and vision coverage options, he said, is $27 per hour.
They also offer 100% tuition reimbursement programs, in addition to 410(k) matching benefit programs, support for mental health sessions and paid parental leave.
"Workers United continues to spread false information about our benefits, policies and negotiation efforts — a tactic used to seemingly divide our partners and deflect from their failure to respond to bargaining sessions for more than 200 stores,” Trull said.
Trull also offered an apology to customers who were impacted by nationwide protests from striking workers in the past week.
Retaliation And Harassment
The workers in Sunday’s protest claim that the benefits they receive are being threatened by their limited work hours.
In a letter to Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan from seven employees of the downtown Cheyenne Starbucks location, the workers claimed that in some cases they’re being denied the 12 hours per week required to receive benefits. They claim that if they complain, they get fewer hours.
The letter also accused the company of ignoring sexual harassment reports from two employees, who are minors.
“In both instances, the issues were met with the minor affected being blamed for the situation occurring,” the letter states.