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Thousands of Starbucks workers are expected to go on a one-day strike

by Madison Thomas
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Starbucks strike

Thousands of Starbucks employees at over 200 U.S. Starbucks locations are poised to engage in a one-day strike, marking a significant escalation in the ongoing two-year campaign to unionize the coffee company’s stores. Organizers have selected Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day for this protest, strategically timed to coincide with one of the busiest days of the year for the coffee giant. On this day, Starbucks traditionally distributes thousands of reusable cups to customers ordering holiday beverages.

The Workers United union has dubbed this strike the “Red Cup Rebellion” and anticipates the participation of more than 5,000 workers, building upon the momentum of approximately 30 stores that initiated walkouts the previous day.

Neha Cremin, a Starbucks barista based in Oklahoma City, voiced her reasons for joining the strike, citing concerns about inadequate staffing levels within stores, particularly during high-traffic events like Red Cup Day. Cremin highlighted the immense pressure on workers who are already juggling delivery orders, drive-thru orders, mobile orders, and in-store orders. Promotions like Red Cup Day only exacerbate the stress levels.

“Understaffing not only negatively impacts employees but also leads to an unpleasant experience for customers,” Cremin emphasized. “Given Starbucks’ apparent reluctance to heed the concerns of its workforce, we are taking matters into our own hands by going on strike.”

This latest strike marks the fifth major labor action undertaken by Starbucks employees since a Buffalo, New York store became the first to unionize in late 2021. Last year, 110 stores participated in walkouts on Red Cup Day, and more recently, a strike in June protested reports of Starbucks removing Pride displays from its stores. Despite these protests, Starbucks’ financial performance has remained robust, with revenue reaching a record $36.0 billion for the 2023 fiscal year ending on October 1st.

Starbucks downplayed the potential impact of the strike, emphasizing that it would affect only a “small subset” of its 9,600 company-owned U.S. stores. The company reiterated its commitment to collaboration and expressed hope that Workers United would shift its priorities to include the collective success of Starbucks partners and the negotiation of contracts for those they represent.

Since late 2021, at least 363 company-operated Starbucks stores across 41 states have voted in favor of unionization. Starbucks vehemently opposes these efforts and has yet to reach a labor agreement with any of the unionized stores. The process has been fraught with conflict, with regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board issuing 111 complaints against Starbucks for unfair labor practices, including allegations of refusal to engage in bargaining. Starbucks contends that Workers United is unwilling to schedule bargaining sessions.

Tensions between Starbucks and Workers United have escalated significantly. In a recent legal move, Starbucks sued Workers United, alleging that a pro-Palestinian social media post on a union account had harmed its reputation, and demanded that the union cease using the name “Starbucks Workers United.” Workers United responded with a counter-lawsuit, accusing Starbucks of defamation and insinuating that the union supports terrorism and violence. The ongoing labor struggle between Starbucks and its employees continues to be a contentious and closely watched issue in the realm of labor activism.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Starbucks strike

What is the purpose of the Starbucks workers’ strike?

The purpose of the Starbucks workers’ strike is to protest working conditions, particularly understaffing during busy events like Red Cup Day, and to advocate for the unionization of Starbucks stores.

How many Starbucks workers are expected to participate in the strike?

Organizers anticipate that more than 5,000 Starbucks workers from over 200 U.S. stores will participate in the strike.

How many strikes have Starbucks workers conducted in recent years?

This strike marks the fifth major labor action by Starbucks workers since the first store in Buffalo, New York, unionized in late 2021.

Has the strike affected Starbucks’ financial performance?

Despite the strikes and worker unrest, Starbucks reported a 12% increase in revenue, reaching a record $36.0 billion for the 2023 fiscal year.

Why is there tension between Starbucks and Workers United?

Tensions have arisen due to disagreements over labor practices, bargaining sessions, and allegations of defamation, including a recent legal dispute over a social media post.

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