Lethbridge Starbucks fires union organizer

This marks 12 workers that have now come forward this year accusing Starbucks of unionbusting in Lethbridge.

Earlier this week, the Alberta Labour Relations Board released their most recent New Applications Report. In the report is a new application alleging interference by Starbucks in the Lethbridge unionization drive.

Caiden Cline, who worked as a barista and then later as a shift supervisor at the West Lethbridge Towne Centre location, submitted an application in conjunction with the United Steelworkers on 10 November 2022.

The application asserts that Starbucks “terminated Mr. Cline’s employment due to his support for and activity in the union.” It goes on to claim that by terminating Cline, who was “a known union supporter”, Starbucks was trying to send “a message to other employees that if they support the union, they too will be subject to adverse treatment.”

USW and Cline allege that this firing contravenes several sections of the Labour Relations Code. For example, they believe it contravenes 148(1)(a), which states,

No employer or employers’ organization and no person acting on behalf of an employer or employers’ organization shall participate in or interfere with the formation or administration of a trade union or the representation of employees by a trade union.

They also claim that it contravenes section 149, specifically:

No employer or employers’ organization and no person acting on behalf of an employer or employers’ organization shall refuse to employ or to continue to employ any person or discriminate against any person in regard to employment or any term or condition of employment because the person is a member of a trade union or an applicant for membership in a trade union, has indicated in writing the person’s selection of a trade union to be the bargaining agent on the person’s behalf, . . . has testified or otherwise participated in or may testify or otherwise participate in a proceeding under this Act, . . . [or] has exercised any right under this Act; . . . [Nor shall they] seek by intimidation, dismissal, threat of dismissal or any
other kind of threat, by the imposition of a pecuniary or
other penalty or by any other means, to compel an employee
to refrain from becoming or to cease to be a member, officer
or representative of a trade union.

This follows a similar application submitted in the summer, in which 11 other Starbucks workers in Lethbridge alleged unionbusting by the company. This makes 12 workers now accusing Starbucks of unionbusting in Lethbridge.

Workers employed with the company attempted to unionize earlier this year, but the vote came out in a tie, making the status quo the automatic result.

Last week, I reported that workers at this location are attempting to unionize again, but at just this one store. The previous unionization effort focused on unionizing all the stores in the city.

Cline has retained the Edmonton law firm Chivers Carpenter for representation in this case. The union-side firm specializes in labour, employment, and human rights law and has assigned Drew Blaikie, who also represented the 11 other Starbucks workers, and Amelia Philpott to the case.

The ALRB has yet to set a hearing date for this matter.

Since the ALRB doesn’t archive their new application reports, here’s a copy of the most recent one.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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