Ladue Starbucks workers shut down coffee shop for three days following unjust firing of lead organizer

Missouri Correspondent

SHUT IT DOWN: Ladue Starbucks workers walked off the job Friday, Oct. 21 after one of its lead organizers was illegally terminated by the company. The strike, which was well-attended by employees and union allies, continued on Saturday and Sunday until noon each day. – Labor Tribune photo

Ladue Starbucks workers walked off the job Friday, Oct. 21 shortly after one of its lead organizers was illegally terminated minutes after he arrived for his shift because he was wearing a union t-shirt. They didn’t come back to work until Monday, Oct. 24.

The popular coffee shop at Lindbergh Boulevard and Clayton Road is the first of five St. Louis-area stores to organize through Starbucks Workers United. Its organizing committee is currently in negotiations with the coffee giant, which has been dragging its feet on contract talks for months.

This was the second strike at the store in recent weeks. After the first strike, Bradley Rohlf said he and other employees were disciplined for wearing union t-shirts on the job. He said he continued to wear the union shirt after that because he “wasn’t going to be intimidated by the company’s illegal actions.”

“I showed up for my shift Friday, was pulled aside by management and handed my termination file,” Rohlf said. “The file said there was no discussion to be had, and they said ‘We’re going to escort you off the premises.’”

Rohlf’s colleague Alex Barge attended the strike all three days. She said she was walking in for her shift on Friday when Rohlf was being escorted out. That was about 6:30 a.m. The employees began texting each other about a strike.

“It happened right before our morning rush,” she said. “By 7 a.m., we all walked out and shut the store down. I’m here today protesting the wrongful firing of Bradley.”

The three-day strike, held until noon each day, was well attended by employees, former employees, union members and Labor allies. Drivers honked their horns to show support for the workers.

Kevin FitzGerald, an Insulators Local 1 retiree and union activist, spread the word about the strike on social media. He said he was proud of the young workers and committed to helping them.

“It is truly inspiring to see these young, smart, aware people have the guts to walk, to organize an action and to speak with the many folks who approached them wanting to know what was going on,” he said. “We need them. They are our future.”

The first strike, which took place a month earlier, was held to bring attention to the fact that Starbucks is retaliating against workers seeking to organize by cutting hours, short staffing during peak hours and not fixing equipment, which puts the staff at risk.

It’s a trend Starbucks workers are facing across the county as company CEO Howard Schultz continues his relentless attacks on those seeking union representation. In fact, a Starbucks Workers United organizing group sent Labor 411 a photo last week in which their Starbucks representative walked out on them during a bargaining meeting.

“Our union is filing an unfair labor practice charge about my termination, seeking reinstatement and back pay,” Rohlf said. “It takes some time, but it’s worked with some success in other markets.”

Until then, other union members at the Ladue location have set up a Go Fund Me account to help Rohlf pay for his expenses since Starbucks was his main source of income. To donate, visit


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