BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Starbucks Workers United said Saturday that a 13-year worker at the store in Tonawanda was fired due to being a union leader.

According to the union, Starbucks claimed that Sam Amato was fired for closing the store lobby without permission from management, despite the fact the union says that were told by upper management that they had the discretion to modify store operations. Additionally, the union says that Amato was not the store supervisor who made the decision to close the store lobby that day.

Workers at the Tonawanda store walked off in protest on Friday and continued the strike into Saturday. A video showing the workers leaving the store has now been viewed over 1.6 million times on TikTok.

“This is the week of my thirteenth anniversary at Starbucks and I was fired,” Amato said. “I was fired because I was a union leader at my store. My manager couldn’t even explain to me why they were firing me. She couldn’t look me in the eye.”

Starbucks Workers United says that this is the ninth union leader in Buffalo to have been fired due to union activity, part of over 75 across the country.

The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Starbucks on Amato’s behalf.

Starbucks told News 4 on Sunday that Amato was let go for store policy violations. The company said Amato violated Starbucks’ closing policy and was on his final warning.

A Starbucks spokesperson said all partners are required to comply with company standards, policies and procedures, and that failing to do so can result in “separation.” The company said it will continue to enforce policies consistently for all partners.

Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.