The Workers United union chose Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day to stage the walkout because it is typically one of the busiest days of the year. Starbucks plans to offer thousands of reusable cups to customers ordering holiday drinks on Thursday.
The union said it expects more than 5,000 workers to participate in its “Red Cup Rebellion.” Around thirty stores also organized walkouts on Wednesday.
Neha Cremin, a Starbucks barista in Oklahoma City, said she was striking to protest understaffing in stores, especially during promotions like Red Cup Day. Cremin said workers are already overwhelmed filling delivery orders, drive-thru orders, mobile orders and in-store orders; promotions add another layer of stress.
“Understaffing harms workers and also creates an unpleasant experience for customers,” Cremin said. “Starbucks has made it clear that it will not listen to workers, which is why we are fighting back by striking.”
Thursday’s strike was the fifth major industrial action by Starbucks workers since a store in Buffalo, New York, became the first to unionize in late 2021. Workers at 110 stores I left last year Red Cup Day; more recently, a strike in June protested reports that Starbucks had removed Pride displays from its stores.
But the strikes had little impact on Starbucks’ sales. For its 2023 financial year, ending October 1, Starbucks reported its revenues increased 12%, reaching a record $36.0 billion.
Starbucks on Wednesday downplayed any potential impact from the strike, saying it would occur in a “small subset” of the 9,600 U.S. stores it owns.
“We remain committed to working with all partners, side by side, to make everyday life better, and we hope that Workers United’s priorities will evolve to include the shared success of our partners and the negotiation of contracts for those they represent.” , Starbucks said in a statement.
At least 363 company-operated Starbucks stores in 41 states have voted to unionize since late 2021. Starbucks’ effort was at the forefront of a period of union activism which also experienced strikes Amazon workers, auto workers and Hollywood writers and actors. At least 457,000 workers participated in 315 strikes in the United States this year alone, according to Johnnie Kallas, a Ph.D. candidate and project director of the Labor Action Tracker at Cornell University.
Starbucks opposes the unionization effort and has yet to reach a labor agreement with any of the stores that voted to unionize. THE the process was controversial; Regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board have filed 111 complaints against Starbucks for unfair labor practices, including refusal to bargain. Starbucks says Workers United refuses to schedule bargaining sessions.
Starbucks said it had begun negotiations with the Teamsters union, which organized a Starbucks store outside Pittsburgh in June 2022. But the two sides did not reach a labor agreement. The Teamsters did not say Wednesday whether workers at the unionized store would also strike.
Relations between Starbucks and Workers United have become increasingly strained. Last month, Starbucks sued Workers United, claiming that a pro-Palestinian post on a union account had damaged its reputation and demanding that the union stop using the name Starbucks Workers United. Workers United responded with its own lawsuit, claiming Starbucks defamed the union by suggesting it supported terrorism and violence.