Starbucks workers strike at more than 100 US stores

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Starbucks employees at more than 100 U.S. shops are on strike Thursday in the largest labor action since a campaign for unionization of the company’s stores started late last year.

The walkouts coincide with Starbucks‘ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives free reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink. It’s one of the busiest days in the year, according to workers. Starbucks declined to disclose how many red cups they plan to distribute.

Workers claim they want better pay, more consistent hours and higher staffing levels in busy stores. According to Starbucks Workers United, the group organizing this effort, stores in 25 states were planning to participate in the labor action. Strikers are handing their own red cups with union logos.

Starbucks said it was aware of the protests and respected its employees’ right not to be arrested. The Seattle company noted that the protests are happening at a small number of its 9,000 company-run U.S. locations.

” We remain committed to all our partners and will continue working side-by-side to make Starbucks a company that works well for everyone,” the company stated in a Thursday statement.

Some workers will picket for the entire day, while others will participate in shorter walkouts. The union stated that the goal was to close down stores during strikes and pointed out that Red Cup Day is often a busy day for the company, which means they have difficulty staffing.

Silvia Baldiz, 26, and Tzvi Ortiz, 31, all said that they enjoy being baristas at the 34th Street or Chestnut Street Starbucks in Philadelphia. The work has become more difficult as the store is trying to simultaneously fill both in-person and delivery orders.

” It’s impossible. Ortiz stated that it is very stressful. “And a lot of people don’t really notice, like, the humans behind this assembly.”

Baldwin, who is on the store’s bargaining committee, is also frustrated that the union hasn’t been able to bargain with Starbucks. She said that striking on Starbucks’ busiest days felt inspiring and would be difficult to ignore.

Others including Michelle Eisen, a union organizer at one the first stores to organize in Buffalo (New York), said that workers are upset that Starbucks promised higher wages and benefits to nonunion stores. Starbucks claims it is following the law. Union stores cannot receive pay increases without bargaining.

Workers at a Seattle store less than three miles from Starbucks’ headquarters claimed that managers were making coffee while the baristas occupied outside. It’s been almost one year since we informed Starbucks that we are going to unionize this location. We have not been able get them to agree to a date for contract negotiations, said Micah Lakes, a Seattle barista. According to the National Labor Relations Board, at least 257 Starbucks stores voted to unionize in the last year. Fivety-seven stores held votes in which workers opted to not unionize.

Starbucks has begun contract talks with the union at 53 shops, with 13 additional sessions planned, Starbucks Workers United stated. So far, no agreements have been reached.

The process has been contentious. A request for an injunction was filed by the NLRB’s regional director to stop Starbucks from firing a union organizer from Ann Arbor, Michigan, earlier this week. The court was directed by the regional director to order Starbucks to reinstate the employee, and to stop interfering with the nationwide unionization campaign.

This was the fourth time that the NLRB had asked a federal court for an intervention. A federal judge ruled in August that seven union organizers fired in Memphis, Tennessee, had to be reinstated by Starbucks. A similar case in Buffalo is still pending, while a federal judge ruled in favor of the NLRB in a Phoenix case.

Meanwhile, Starbucks has asked the NLRB to temporarily suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores, citing allegations from a board employee that regional officials improperly coordinated with union organizers. The case is currently pending.


AP Writer Nardos Haile contributed from New York. Manuel Valdes, AP Video Journalist in Seattle, contributed from Seattle.

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