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Thousands of Starbucks workers go on a one-day strike on one of the chain’s busiest days of year

by Chloe Baker
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Starbucks strike

Numerous Starbucks employees participated in a one-day strike at over 200 U.S. Starbucks locations on a significant day known as Red Cup Day, marking one of the most extensive labor actions in the two-year campaign to unionize Starbucks stores, as organized by the Workers United union.

The timing of the strike on Red Cup Day was strategic, as it typically witnesses a surge in customer traffic due to Starbucks giving away thousands of reusable cups to those ordering holiday beverages. The union, under the banner of the “Red Cup Rebellion,” anticipated the participation of more than 5,000 workers. They engaged in picketing during part of the day while visiting non-union stores for the remainder. On the preceding day, approximately 30 stores also staged walkouts.

Juniper Schweitzer, a Starbucks employee of 16 years, expressed her affection for the company’s ideals but voiced concerns about their fulfillment. She noted that frequent promotions, such as Red Cup Day and buy-one-get-one-free offers, place undue stress on workers, who often find it challenging to manage the influx of mobile orders and the resulting workload. Schweitzer emphasized the need for adequate staffing and fair compensation.

Edwin Palmasolis, with over two years of experience at Starbucks, joined the strike in front of his New York store, which voted to unionize the previous year. Despite this, negotiations between Starbucks and the union have not commenced, and Palmasolis believes that a contract could help improve the working conditions in his busy Manhattan store.

The recent strike marks the fifth major labor action taken by Starbucks workers since a Buffalo, New York store became the first to unionize in late 2021. Prior strikes protested issues such as the removal of Pride displays from stores. However, these actions have had little impact on Starbucks’ sales, with the company reporting a 12% increase in revenue to a record $36.0 billion for the 2023 fiscal year ending on October 1.

Starbucks mentioned that many stores with striking workers remained open, staffed by supervisors, managers, and employees who opted not to strike or came from nearby stores to cover additional hours.

Since late 2021, at least 363 company-operated Starbucks stores in 41 states have voted to unionize, marking a notable moment in a period of increased labor activism that has also seen strikes by workers at companies like Amazon and in other industries. Starbucks has opposed unionization efforts and has faced complaints of unfair labor practices.

Despite legal disputes and tensions between Starbucks and Workers United, most strikers primarily focused on work-related issues and fair pay during this recent strike, emphasizing their desire for a better working environment within the company.

In conclusion, Starbucks employees conducted a significant strike on Red Cup Day, highlighting concerns about working conditions and unionization efforts within the company. While these actions have not significantly impacted Starbucks’ sales, they underscore the ongoing labor activism in various sectors across the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Starbucks strike

What was the purpose of the Starbucks workers’ strike on Red Cup Day?

The purpose of the Starbucks workers’ strike on Red Cup Day was to draw attention to their concerns regarding working conditions and their ongoing effort to unionize Starbucks stores. They aimed to highlight issues such as staffing, workload, and fair compensation.

How many Starbucks locations and workers were involved in the strike?

Over 200 Starbucks locations across the United States were involved in the strike, with organizers expecting more than 5,000 workers to participate in what they called the “Red Cup Rebellion.”

Have previous strikes by Starbucks workers had a significant impact on the company’s sales?

No, previous strikes by Starbucks workers have not had a significant impact on the company’s sales. Despite these labor actions, Starbucks reported a 12% increase in revenue to a record $36.0 billion for its 2023 fiscal year.

What were some of the specific grievances expressed by Starbucks employees during the strike?

Starbucks employees expressed concerns about the stress caused by frequent promotions, challenges in managing mobile orders, understaffing, and being underpaid. They emphasized the need for adequate staffing and fair compensation.

What is the status of unionization efforts within Starbucks stores?

Since late 2021, at least 363 company-operated Starbucks stores in 41 states have voted to unionize. However, negotiations between Starbucks and the union have not commenced in many cases, and there have been complaints of unfair labor practices.

Did Starbucks respond to the strike, and how did they manage store operations during the walkout?

Starbucks mentioned that many stores with striking workers remained open during the strike. These stores were staffed by supervisors, managers, and employees who chose not to strike or came from nearby stores to cover additional hours.

What legal disputes and tensions exist between Starbucks and Workers United?

Starbucks and Workers United have been involved in legal disputes, with Starbucks suing Workers United over a pro-Palestinian post on a union account. Workers United, in turn, filed a lawsuit against Starbucks, alleging defamation and suggesting that Starbucks supports terrorism and violence.

What are the primary goals of Starbucks workers participating in these strikes?

The primary goals of Starbucks workers participating in these strikes are to improve working conditions, secure fair compensation, and advance their unionization efforts within the company. They emphasize their desire for a better working environment at Starbucks.

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