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

by Sophia Chen
4 comments
Starbucks strike

Thousands of Starbucks employees embarked on a one-day strike, strategically choosing one of the busiest days of the year for the coffee giant. Over 200 U.S. Starbucks locations saw workers walk off their shifts on Thursday, marking a significant milestone in a two-year-long campaign to unionize the company’s stores, organized by the Workers United union.

This particular strike, dubbed the “Red Cup Rebellion,” coincided with Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, a day known for high customer traffic as the company gives away thousands of reusable cups to those ordering holiday drinks. The union anticipated the participation of more than 5,000 workers in this collective action. They engaged in picketing during part of the day and visited non-unionized stores for the remainder. Additionally, approximately 30 stores initiated walkouts on the preceding day.

Juniper Schweitzer, a Starbucks veteran with 16 years of service, voiced her concerns. She expressed love for the company and its principles but felt that Starbucks was falling short of its promises. Frequent promotions like Red Cup Day and buy-one-get-one-free offers placed added pressure on workers who lacked the ability to manage mobile orders or control workflow. Schweitzer emphasized the overwhelming workload and the feeling of being understaffed and underpaid.

Edwin Palmasolis, employed at Starbucks for over two years, joined the strike in front of his New York store. While his store voted to unionize last year, negotiations between Starbucks and the union had yet to begin. Palmasolis believed that a contract would improve working conditions at his busy Manhattan store.

This strike marked the fifth significant labor action by Starbucks workers since a store in Buffalo, New York, became the first to unionize in late 2021. Previous strikes protested issues such as the removal of Pride displays from Starbucks stores. Interestingly, these strikes had little impact on Starbucks’ sales, with the company reporting a 12% revenue increase for its 2023 fiscal year, reaching a record $36.0 billion.

Starbucks stated that many stores with striking workers remained open, staffed by supervisors, managers, and employees who chose not to strike or offered additional hours from nearby stores. Since late 2021, at least 363 company-operated Starbucks stores in 41 states have voted to unionize. Starbucks continues to oppose unionization efforts and has yet to reach a labor agreement with any of the stores that have voted to unionize.

The process has been marked by contention, with regional National Labor Relations Board offices issuing 111 complaints against Starbucks for unfair labor practices, including refusal to bargain. Starbucks alleges that Workers United is unwilling to schedule bargaining sessions. Tensions between Starbucks and Workers United escalated further when the company sued the union, citing a pro-Palestinian post on a union account that allegedly damaged its reputation. In response, Workers United filed a countersuit, alleging defamation by Starbucks for suggesting union support for terrorism and violence.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Starbucks strike

What is the significance of Red Cup Day in the Starbucks strike?

Red Cup Day was chosen strategically as the strike day because it’s one of the busiest days of the year for Starbucks. The company gives away thousands of reusable cups on this day to customers who order holiday drinks. This timing was meant to maximize the impact of the strike and draw attention to the workers’ demands.

Why did Starbucks workers go on strike?

Starbucks workers went on strike to demand better working conditions and to further their efforts to unionize the company’s stores. They expressed concerns about heavy workloads, understaffing, and low pay, and they believe that unionization can help improve their situation.

How successful have previous Starbucks strikes been?

Previous Starbucks strikes, including those on Red Cup Day and one protesting the removal of Pride displays from stores, had limited impact on the company’s sales. Despite the strikes, Starbucks reported a 12% increase in revenue for its 2023 fiscal year, reaching a record $36.0 billion. However, these strikes have drawn attention to worker concerns and the ongoing labor dispute.

What is the current status of Starbucks and Workers United’s negotiations?

As of now, Starbucks and Workers United have not reached a labor agreement in stores that have voted to unionize. The process has been contentious, with numerous complaints filed against Starbucks for unfair labor practices. Starbucks has alleged that Workers United is unwilling to schedule bargaining sessions.

What legal actions have been taken in this labor dispute?

Starbucks has sued Workers United, claiming that a pro-Palestinian post on a union account damaged its reputation. Workers United responded with a countersuit, alleging defamation by Starbucks for suggesting union support for terrorism and violence. These legal actions have added complexity to the ongoing labor dispute.

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4 comments

UnionGurl November 17, 2023 - 2:43 am

starbucks workrs neeed supprt, bettr work cnditions

Reply
CoffeeLover21 November 17, 2023 - 2:46 pm

wow, strikin’ on red cup day, bold move!

Reply
NegotiatinBlues November 17, 2023 - 5:15 pm

stbcks vs. union, legal wrangle

Reply
EconNerd88 November 17, 2023 - 6:10 pm

Strikes no affect on sales? interstin’… $$$

Reply

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