Starbucks workers strike on Red Cup Day over union bargaining

Starbucks employees across the country go on strike during the holiday season.

More than 2,000 workers at more than 100 Starbucks stores across the country took part in their biggest union action yet on Thursday, protesting the company’s refusal to negotiate with unionized workers. They said on his 25th Annual Red Cup Day, one of the busiest days of the year for the company, that Starbucks will offer a free reusable red cup with every holiday drink order. I do. Instead of calling customers or making sumptuous seasonal coffees, these workers held up picket signs, talked to customers about their union outside their stores, and held aloft Workers’ Union ornaments like the Grinch. handing out their own red cups decorated with like hands. logo.

Only 1 percent of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-operated stores in the United States are on strike, but their actions have been well-recognized by customers and, through media coverage, the American public, which is increasingly supporting unions. I was.

“With 100 stores going on strike across the country today, I think it’s definitely going to make an impact,” he said from outside the closed store, 20 minutes from Portland, Maine. “To show the company that we are stronger together, not just profitably, and if we act collectively, we may really be able to make a difference.”

A union spokesperson said a “majority” of the striking stores were closed today. That is, it doesn’t bring in revenue on a normally very profitable day and is seen as the beginning of Starbucks’ winter holiday push. Some people describe it in terms like “insane” and estimate it to be twice as much as normal. This year, some of those red cups are sitting in a dark store.

Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment about the impact of the strike. Starbucks founder Howard D. Schultz said in an earnings call earlier this month: The return of the iconic red cup gives us great confidence heading into the 2023 holidays. ”

At the opened store, staffed by other store managers, directors, and non-union employees, traffic was restricted as many customers refused to cross the picket line.

“It’s not even a fraction of what usually happens on a normal Red Cup Day,” barista Maria Flores told Recode from the picket line outside the Queens store. “I think it’s probably around 75%. [customers] Whether you’re looking to turn around and grab a cold brew here on the picket line, or seek out another local coffee spot.

She said some customers were joining the picket line while cars and even subway drivers were honking their horns.

“We were uniting and honking trains,” said Flores, whose location on Boulevard Astoria borders a subway line.

In Jacksonville, Fla., a crew of 10, including about five managers, came in to replace the seven regular Starbucks employees who were scheduled for the day, according to the impressive Starbucks there. Barista Mason Boykin said. Still, that crew could only operate the drive-thru (in-store, Uber Eats, and mobile ordering were closed), and Boykin said he waited as long as five minutes at the speaker box before customers attended. I said I saw you there. to (usually processed immediately). Closing time is 11:00 at the earliest.

Workers go on strike outside an Elmwood Starbucks near Buffalo, New York. The shop is closed today because there are few people.
Michelle Eisen

Employees said most customers they spoke with outside the store were incredibly supportive. Some joined the picket line, others wanted to know what was going on.

Roisin Potts, shift supervisor at Austin Starbucks, spoke with customers from the parking lot after the current owner of the store asked her and fellow strikers to leave.

Thanks to social outreach and a customer base that is very close to the employees, Potts said far fewer people entered the parking lot in the first place because they knew the store was on strike. Many of those who entered the parking lot did not go to the store.

“Many of them stop to chat with us, ask questions, and then leave,” says Potts. “At least he had one say, ‘I’m having coffee at home. Today I’m going to go home and make my own.'”

Workers on strike outside an Austin Starbucks, which is currently staffed by managers, regional directors, and workers from other locations.
Atlas Danger

It’s been almost a year since the first Starbucks in Buffalo, New York, voted union. Since then, more than 250 people across the country have done so. In most cases, the company refuses to negotiate with these stores. The company ostensibly has started negotiations with 55 stores (up from three this summer), but those negotiations are only superficial, said the first Starbucks barista to join a union. One Michelle Eisen said: At those meetings, Starbucks immediately declined to conduct negotiations over video calls. This is something both Starbucks and the union agreed to early on in the pandemic. Each union bargaining team has workers from all over the country, making it difficult to get everyone together, but many participate directly.

“We use the term ‘at the table’ loosely because they didn’t stay at the table very long,” Eisen said.

Unions have filed more than 400 unfair labor practices complaints against the company. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the government agency charged with overseeing labor affairs, will investigate each allegation. So far, 45 complaints (covering 155 claims) have been issued against the company, meaning that at least some of the claims have been found to be justified. NLRB has filed numerous complaints about the company’s failure to negotiate with stores nationwide.

It’s not yet clear whether today’s strike will bring Starbucks to bargain with the union, but workers felt it wouldn’t hurt. I was.

“We have developed a very close relationship with our customers.It is absolutely incredible to see them supporting us despite the freezing cold and very strong winds. I did,” said Beck Green, whose Boston store was closed Thursday because of the strike.

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