Lend a hand: Starbucks engaging in religious persecution of IWW barista

For the second time in as many months, Starbucks management has kicked Starbucks Workers Union member Suley Ayala out of the workplace for wearing her modest Pentagram necklace.

Submitted by Steven. on February 10, 2006

Religious Discrimination
Ms. Ayala is a practicing Wiccan and as a religious observance never takes off the necklace. She wore the necklace at Starbucks without interruption for three years until the company started harassing her after she and a group of her co-workers went public as members of the Starbucks Workers Union on November 18, 2005.

Since then various management officials have badgered her and sent her home for refusing to take off the necklace. Ms. Ayala is extremely distraught and understandably angry. Management can't even get its story straight, sometimes saying no religious symbols are allowed and other times saying the necklace is too distracting. All the while, baristas wearing crosses of the same modest size have never been disciplined. Our opinion is that Starbucks is exploiting Suley's non-traditional religion to retaliate against her for union activity.

The Fight Back
As a mother of four working hard to make ends meet, being disrespected by the company and losing a day's earnings are the last things Ms. Ayala needs. We're asking people of good will from all religions or no religion at all to join our fight. An indigenous Ecuadorian, Suley has struggled hard to win material gains on the job for her family and she's not about to back down on her right to freely practice her religion.

Last Tuesday after Suley was sent home following a lull in the harassment, a co-worker and fellow union member asked her for the necklace. Tomer Malchi, a Jew, put the necklace on and he too was confronted by management. In a moving act, Mr. Malchi refused to take off the Pentagram in solidarity with his sister worker. He was ousted from the workplace. Since then SWU members and supporters have been leafleting in front of the store to get the word out about Starbucks' reprehensible conduct. Suley Ayala has filed a religious discrimination complaint against Starbucks with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, the government won't win this fight for us, grassroots action will. In response to the union's outrage, Starbucks has backed down a bit. Management now says that Ms. Ayala can wear a miniature version of the Pentagram. But that's not enough. Suley wore her Pentagram without incident for three years. Why should she be arbitrarily disciplined now that she is a union member? We demand that she be allowed to wear her original Pentagram and receive compensation for the days she was sent home early.

Take Action
Before we formed the Starbucks Workers Union, the tyrants at the company could treat us like servants and we had no recourse to fight back. No longer. We will not tolerate religious discrimination against any of our members whether Wiccan, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or atheist, or any other world view. Please take a stand with us for religious liberty in the workplace. Together we can create a truly global labor movement.

Call Starbucks District Manager Kim Vetrano NOW and demand that Suley be allowed to freely observe her religion while at work and that she be compensated for the work hours she missed:

* Phone: (646) 256-9929
* E-Mail: [email protected]
* Fax: (917)591-8599

Stay Connected at www.starbucksunion.org