Labor Advocates Rally for Fired Starbucks Union Organizer in Great Neck Plaza

great neck starbucks
Joselyn Chuquillanqui, left, rallies alongside community organizers against her July 27 firing from Starbucks in Great Neck Plaza.
Courtesy Long Island Progressive Coalition

Chants of “Rehire Joselyn!” rang loud Aug. 15 outside of Starbucks on Great Neck Road in Great Neck Plaza, from where former shift supervisor Joselyn Chuquillanqui was fired a few weeks earlier.

The 28-year-old from Elmont describes being targeted by managers for months after she took on a leadership role in organizing store workers to unionize. She also claims that union busting by managers caused the Great Neck store’s April union vote to fail 5-6, even after all 11 employees signed union petition cards.

“Ever since April, they’ve been targeting me and trying to get rid of me, and we’re here to tell them that’s not OK,” Chuquillanqui said at the rally, as cars passing by honked in support and protesters cheered.

The Great Neck Starbucks store has been accused of unfair labor practices for the July 27 firing of Joselyn and alleged union busting. In a statement emailed to the Press, Starbucks denied the allegations of anti-union activity, calling them “categorically false.”

“A partner’s interest in a union does not exempt them from the standards we have always held,” the statement from Starbucks’ media relations said. “We will continue enforcing our policies fairly, transparently, and consistently for all partners.”

Several community organizers and union leaders spoke in support of Chuquillanqui at the recent rally right at the doors of the Starbucks location, calling her an inspiration for those seeking workers’ rights.

“She did one of the most American things I can think of. She stepped up, she stepped up in her power, unafraid to challenge this system that is broken, and she did it for all of us,” said Melanie D’Arrigo, an organizer and progressive candidate for New York Congressional District 3. “Firing Joselyn was about power and for decades there has been a power imbalance between those at the top and the rest of us, so when Joselyn stepped into her power, she terrified them.”

Documents obtained by the Press show that Chuquillanqui, who worked at Starbucks for seven years, was terminated for latenesses beginning in April and a July incident of misplacing a key to the store, located at 6 Great Neck Rd. in Great Neck Plaza.

Chuquillanqui says she was only ever 3 to 10 minutes late at most, while other employees who were 30 to 45 minutes late have not been reprimanded. She also says that she informed her manager about the missing key and followed protocol until it was found.

“She hadn’t had a single writeup until April of this year, coincidentally when her store’s union vote was – and started getting written up for minor infractions (such as being 3 minutes late),” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement. “She was ultimately fired for misplacing a store key despite immediately informing her manager.” 

Screenshots of two of Chuquillanqui’s July latenesses mentioned in her termination letter show she was five and three minutes late. Starbucks Workers United has filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging “retaliatory termination for Joselyn’s union activity.”

Chuquillanqui’s firing comes after Austin Locke, a Starbucks worker and union organizer in Queens, was fired on July 5. The National Labor Relations Board has also filed complaints against Starbucks for violating workers’ rights to unionize without retaliation. There have been more than 20 complaints filed against Starbucks nationwide, according to reports.