The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Conflicting accounts: Boba Guys

January 23, 2023

A 30-minute drive from Clark’s store would reach a different popular drink stop located back in San Francisco. Here, employees were met with firings and accusations they claim to be unfounded, after posting links to union information in their employee Slack.

Boba Guys former employee Xiaojun Zhou was already looking for another job when they were working at the location off Valencia Street in San Francisco.

Their friend had recommended the place as their first job, and Zhou, who was 16 at the time, settled into a routine of making drinks and memorizing recipes.

According to Zhou, the first time they heard about unions was when a coworker, Madeline Urso, posted a message about union basics on their company Slack. Zhou felt that there was a sense of agreement among the employees that working conditions were not adequate.

“It felt like they didn’t care about us. It didn’t look like we mattered to them,” Zhou said.

Urso was fired the next day. The Slack message wasn’t even an attempt to unionize, according to Zhou.

“Boba Guys has a history of gaslighting. Every time that something happened, they would be like, ‘We are actually doing this and this and this.’ It felt like those things didn’t actually matter. They were just trying to take our attention away from what the problem was by telling us that they’re doing everything,” Zhou said.

According to Zhou, the company justified firing Urso with an accusation that they made inappropriate comments about the CEO, Andrew Chau.

“But that language has been used in store consistently and not just by them. It’s a pretty normal conversation that happens in the store, and we’ve never received any kind of disciplinary action from management before. There’s never been a warning like, ‘Hey, don’t talk like that at work.’ There were no three strikes and you’re out, it was just, ‘You’re fired,’” Zhou said.

Prior to the job and controversy, Zhou had looked up to Boba Guys’ mission.

“They seemed really cool. I really agreed with their business model and company mission. My friend who referred me to join Boba Guys also really liked them. But since joining, it’s very clear that they are hypocrites. They keep on telling us to remember the core values, but the way they act doesn’t exemplify the core values that they’re pushing onto us,” Zhou said.

Boba Guys’ management did not respond to requests for comment. However, in a statement from Bin Chen, the co-founder of Boba Guys, they dismissed any allegations of union-busting or preventing their workers from organizing.

“The company categorically denies having ever engaged in employee discipline connected to labor organizing,” Chen said.

The Mission District Boba Guys location where Zhou worked has since closed permanently, according to its Yelp site.

About the Photographer
Photo of Elaine Jiang
Elaine Jiang, Staff Writer
Elaine Jiang is a sophomore at Carlmont High School and a staff news writer. She likes learning about the world through reading news articles and understanding social and political issues. In her free time, she loves to bake, draw, and watch Netflix.

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