Monday, August 31, 2009

The following story and appeal is from the website of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to which the Starbucks Union is affiliated.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Aizze was the best barista at the Snelling & Selby Starbucks in St. Paul, MN. She knew every regular's drink and could make a latte in 28 seconds. She has 20 MUG awards for her job performance, and was never written up in her two years of service, nor was her till ever ‘over’ or ‘short.’ Her coworkers and customers loved her; they called her 'Aizze' (pronounced 'Ozzie'), short for Azmera. This description is in the past tense because Starbucks wrongfully fired Aizze on July 8, 2009. Starbucks management accused her of theft, although they themselves ADMIT that they have no video or other evidence to support their accusation.
Adding insult to injury, Saint Paul District Manager Claire Gallagher took advantage of Aizze’s limited English abilities and bullied and manipulated her into signing a promissory note saying she would pay Starbucks the arbitrarily- determined amount of $1200. Acting through the notoriously anti-worker law firm Olonoff, Asen & Serebro,. LLP, Starbucks has since sent Aizze a letter threatening to send their baseless claim to a collections agency.
Azmera is not a thief. An immigrant from Ethiopia, Azmera has been a citizen of the U.S. for the past ten years. She has worked at Starbucks for the past two years. Together with her husband, a Taxi driver, Azmera is the proud mother of three young children. Aizze is an honest, deeply religious woman who loves her job and works hard to care for her family.
How did this happen?
On July 8, 2009, Aizze was told to sit in the back room at the end of her shift, alone with St. Paul District Manager Claire Gallagher. For almost two hours, she was not allowed to leave, and no other workers were allowed to enter. The DM made a conference call with “Partner & Asset Protection” Manager Chris Vanderhoof and together they began to interrogate Aizze. When Aizze informed her interrogators that she did not understand what they were saying, they just repeated the same words over and over. Aizze was not offered an interpreter. She was told that if she didn't sign the promissory note, they would call the police and have her arrested. Thinking of her children, she signed the paper. Her interrogators told her flatly that they had no proof or video of her stealing money, yet they accused her of theft. Aizze never stole. If there was change someone didn’t want from a transaction, Aizze put it in the tip jar, but she never, ever stole.
Why Aizze?
We can only speculate on why Aizze was targeted, but one thing is clear: Starbucks thinks they can get away with victimizing her because she is an immigrant and a non-native English speaker.
What You Can Do To Help
We all have a responsibility to stand up for the most vulnerable amongst us. We will not sit idly by while Starbucks management victimizes one who has come to this country seeking a better life. We demand immediate reinstatement, the immediate nullification of the promissory note, and an apology to Aizze. Justice must be done for Aizze and all workers.
Regional Vice President SUMI GOSH at 312-342-8701
Regional Director DIMITRI HATZIGEORGIOU at 312-731-8909
St. Paul District Manager CLAIRE GALLAGHER at 651-260-5079
And here's the latest update on this case.
Hello Fellow Workers, Customers and Friends of Aizze!

Thank you so much for your support for Azmera. By signing the petition, calling-in to Starbucks management, and coming out for a hugely successful picket of the Snelling & Selby store last Saturday, we have sent a strong message to Starbucks that Aizze is not alone and that we will not stand for discrimination. The picket was covered by several media outlets, including the Star Tribune <> and Pioneer Press <>. According to workers at Snelling & Selby, sales dropped by over 50% during the hour and a half that we picketed the store.

After the picket, Aizze had a brief phone conversation with Becky Critch, Starbucks Human Resources Manager. We had hoped that Starbucks would present an offer, but instead, Critch attempted to dominate the conversation, asking probing questions about Aizze's work history.
Critch refused to allow Aizze to answer questions in writing. After the traumatic experience of her interrogation in the back room of the store, it is highly insulting for management to expect Aizze to submit to further oral questioning.

With no offer from Starbucks on the table, it's time to increase the pressure.
What's Next?
1. Please continue to call Starbucks Area Director DIMITRI HATZIGEORGIOU at 312-731-8909 to tell him you support Aizze's demands.
2. We have invited fellow workers, customers and community members to come and meet Aizze on SUNDAY, AUGUST 30 at 1PM at Coffee con Amore, 917 Grand Avenue, Saint Paul. This will be an opportunity to hear from Aizze, discuss the next steps in the campaign, and learn more about the Starbucks Workers Union. Join us!
3. During this tough time for Aizze and her family, you may consider making a donation to help Aizze while she is unemployed. A customer of Aizze's established a fund through PayPal for supporters to make donation directly to Aizze. You can donate at

Again, thank you all so much for your support and solidarity with us in this struggle.
-The Justice for Aizze Team
Contact info.:
Anja Witek: ahwitek [at], (651) 587-9593
justiceforaizze [at]

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