Starbucks employees launched a strike Thursday at dozens of union locations across the country, citing what they say is the company’s refusal to bargain in good faith and anti-union tactics such as shootings and closing stores.
The action, dubbed the “Red Cup Mutiny” by the organizers, has yet to be halted Holiday themed reusable cups Distributed by Starbucks with certain purchases, it was expected to continue to this day. The striking workers said they would hand out union-branded mugs to customers.
“Starbucks has left behind the very values that drew so many of us to the company in the first place,” said Michelle Eisen, a worker Help organize In a statement, he said it was the first of more than 250 sites to unionize over the past year. “You can’t be pro-LGTBQ, pro-BLM, pro-sustainability or anti-union. This Red Cup Day, we’re organizing for a voice in action and a real seat at the table.”
In a statement, Starbucks said it was aware that “union demonstrations are scheduled in a small number of the more than 9,000 American company-owned stores.” The company added that it respects the right of its employees, whom it calls partners, to engage in legitimate protests, but that its focus has been to “elevate the Starbucks experience for our partners and customers.”
Thursday’s strike is the largest single labor strike, at least in a geographical sweep, that the union has undertaken since the campaign began. The union said workers in more than 100 stores are participating, though that number could not be independently verified.
Regulation professionals argued that such an escalation was necessary to force the company and allow the union to secure a contract with tangible benefits such as higher wages and better sick leave benefits.
Gene Bruskin, a longtime entrepreneur who has advised Amazon workers unions successfully On Staten Island this year, he said in an interview that large coordinated action such as the national strike was important because it showed the company that “things will get worse, not better,” unless it is brought to the table and acted upon.
The wave of unionization spread quickly after the Buffalo Store He won the union elections In December, dozens of stores across the country filed for union elections over the next few months. (National Labor Relations Board found later Workers at a second Buffalo-area store won their votes in December as well.)
But the campaign slowed by late spring, and the pace of filings in the election dropped sharply over the next few months, from about 70 in March to less than 10 in August.
Pro-union workers blamed the slowdown on the company’s response to their campaign, which they said included firing dozens of union supporters, wage increases and new benefits that applied only to stores that did not unionize or were in the process of being worked on. unions.
The National Labor Relations Board has issued several complaints against the company over these accusations, and agency judges have ruled against the company in a handful of cases to date.
The company, which can appeal the rulings, denied it acted unlawfully, saying it fired union supporters only when they violated company policies, and that it was unilaterally prohibited by law from introducing new benefits and wage increases in unionized stores. Because it must be bargained. Employment law experts saw this argument Skeptically.
Thursday’s strikes appeared to reflect a new phase in the campaign, during which the union saw little progress in bargaining sessions that began in October. The company has withdrawn from many sessions, Confirming That the workers’ representatives were violating the Agreed Ground Rules by seeking to broadcast sessions using video chat software.
Casey Moore, a Buffalo-area worker involved in the union campaign, denied that the actors were seeking to broadcast bargaining sessions, saying the purpose of the video broadcast was to include workers who were unable to attend in person, a venue many companies have held since the beginning of the pandemic.
In Chicago, workers stood outside closed stores in temperatures in the 30s and sometimes snow, holding signs that read “Solidarity Brewing” and “Will Strike If Provocated.”
Teddy Hoffman, the union shift supervisor at a Starbucks store on the North Side of town, said company representatives left a bargaining session with workers in late October shortly after it began.
Mr. Hoffman said, referring to a place where workers can join either in person or remotely. He said no further hearing date has been set.
Reed Essex, a worker at another Chicago store, said company representatives did not show up for that store’s scheduled bargaining session in October and a new date has not been set.
A Starbucks spokesperson said it could not immediately comment on what happened.
An escalation in union tactics began over the summer, when workers at individual stores began staging more frequent and longer strikes, including workers at a Boston-area store who walked out for more than two months. Workers at the company’s New York City Roastery have been on strike for more than three weeks.