Thousands of Starbucks workers go on a one-day strike
NEW YORK (AP) — Workers at more than 200 US Starbucks walked off the job Thursday in what organisers said was the largest strike yet in the two-year-old effort to unionise the company’s stores.
The Workers United union chose Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day to stage the walkout since it’s usually one of the busiest days of the year. Starbucks expects to give away thousands of reusable cups Thursday to customers who order holiday drinks.
The union said it was expecting more than 5,000 workers to take part in its “Red Cup Rebellion.” Workers were expected to picket for part of the day and visit non-union stores the rest of the day, the union said. Around 30 stores also staged walkouts on Wednesday.
Edwin Palmasolis, a Starbucks employee for more than two years, joined the picket line Thursday in front of his New York store. His store voted to unionise last year, but so far Starbucks and the union haven’t started bargaining. A contract would help improve working conditions at his busy Manhattan store, Palmasolis said.
“It’s been more of a downgrade than an uphill for us. It’s been exhausting trying to deal with their retaliation and not much of a change has been made in the past year,” he said. “They’ve been silent on their part, they have not made anything to benefit us.”
Thursday’s strike was the fifth major labour action by Starbucks workers since a store in Buffalo, New York, became the first to unionise in late 2021. Workers at 110 stores walked out last year on Red Cup Day; most recently, a strike in June protested reports that Starbucks had removed Pride displays from its stores.
But the strikes have had little impact on Starbucks’ sales. For its 2023 fiscal year, which ended October 1, Starbucks reported its revenue rose 12 per cent,to a record $36.0 billion.
Starbucks said Thursday that many of the stores with striking workers remained open.
“We have nearly 10,000 stores open right now delighting our customers with the joy of Red Cup Day,” the company said.
At least 363 company-operated Starbucks stores in 41 states have voted to unionise since late 2021. The Starbucks effort was at the leading edge of a period of labour activism that has also seen strikes by Amazon workers, auto workers and Hollywood writers and actors. At least 457,000 workers have participated in 315 strikes in the US just this year, according to Johnnie Kallas, a PhD candidate and the project director of Cornell University’s Labour Action Tracker.
Starbucks opposes the unionisation effort and has yet to reach a labour agreement with any of the stores that have voted to unionise. The process has been contentious; regional offices with the National Labour Relations Board have issued 111 complaints against Starbucks for unfair labor practices, including refusal to bargain. Starbucks says Workers United is refusing to schedule bargaining sessions.
Starbucks noted that it has started bargaining with the Teamsters union, which organised a Starbucks store outside of Pittsburgh in June 2022. But the two sides have not reached a labor agreement. The Teamsters didn’t say Wednesday whether workers at the unionised store would also be striking.
Relations between Starbucks and Workers United have grown increasingly tense. Last month, Starbucks sued Workers United, saying a pro-Palestinian post on a union account damaged its reputation and demanding that the union stop using the name Starbucks Workers United. Workers United responded with its own lawsuit, saying Starbucks defamed the union by suggesting it supports terrorism and violence.