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Starbucks fires union organizer

SEATTLE -- Starbucks Corp. has fired the cofounder of a union claiming to represent employees at six of its Manhattan coffeehouses.

Daniel Gross, a barista and organizer for IWW Starbucks Workers Union, a branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, said yesterday he is challenging his termination, which followed a company investigation into an allegation that he made a threatening remark to a district manager at a recent union rally.

Gross, who has led unionization efforts at Starbucks for three years, countered that he was simply making a statement of solidarity when he told district manager Allison Marx that a fellow employee should not be fired.

Gross, 27, said the IWW filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board on yesterday alleging he was wrongfully terminated.

``By terminating me on Saturday, Starbucks has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's an antiworker, anti union company," Gross said in a phone interview from New York City.

Starbucks confirmed Gross no longer works for the company but would not comment on what led to his departure.

Valerie O'Neil, a spokeswoman at Starbucks' corporate headquarters , said the company does not discourage union organizing.

The world's largest specialty coffee retailer, which is often lauded for offering generous benefits that include health insurance for part-time workers, says there are no unionized Starbucks stores in the United States.

And while the IWW Starbucks Workers Union has not certified under the National Labor Relations Act, it claims to represent dues-paying members who have bargained for certain job improvements, including raises.

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