On the day Starbucks held its annual “Red Cup Day,” many of its unionized workers held what they have dubbed the “Red Cup Rebellion.”
The one-day strike Thursday was called “in response to Starbucks’ union-busting tactics and refusal to bargain,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement to Axios.
“This is the biggest coordinated national action taken by union Starbucks stores in the campaign’s history,” the union said.
Axios reported that more than 100 of the coffee chain’s stores participated in the demonstration. Starbucks has more than 15,000 locations in the U.S. and about 34,000 worldwide, according to StarbMag.
Red Cup Day is a Starbucks tradition in which customers get a red, reusable cup when they order a holiday drink.
Happy Red Cup Day! Head to Starbucks today and order a holiday (or fall) beverage to get a free 2022 reusable red cup. Available for a limited time, while supplies last. https://t.co/UdSouA1tOV
— Starbucks News (@StarbucksNews) November 17, 2022
“We’ve chosen to strike today, on Red Cup Day, intentionally,” Tyler Keeling, a union supporter from California, told Axios. “We want everyone, including Starbucks, to know that we know our rights and are acting within the law, and we want the contract that we are legally entitled to. We’re ready to bargain when they are.”
“From short staffing and labor cuts, to Starbucks and their representatives barging out from bargaining sessions, we’re demanding that Starbucks act in good faith like they claim, and cease their anti-union campaign against us workers,” he said.
Andrew Trull, senior manager of corporate communications for Starbucks, told Axios in an email that the company expected union demonstrations at “a small number” of its stores.
“In those locations where partners choose to participate, we respect their right to engage in lawful protest activity — though our focus has been, and continues to be, on uplifting the Starbucks experience for our partners and customers,” he said.
Trull said Starbucks has engaged with the union group “in a good faith effort to move the bargaining process forward.”
“It’s been almost a year since we told Starbucks that we are unionizing this location and we still have not been able to get them to agree to a time for contract negotiations,” Lakes said.
“We’re not going to work the day that is the most important for you if you’re not going to be willing to meet up with us and talk with us about what we need from the company.”
The union shared many images on social media of workers’ actions on Thursday.
Starbucks likes to tell you that the union is an outside force. An agitator group here to steal their profits and disrupt their “friendly workplace environment.”
— St. Louis Starbucks Workers United (@SBWUStLouis) November 17, 2022
— SB Workers United Seattle (@SeattleSBWU) November 17, 2022
This morning @Starbucks sent the managers of local striking stores to open up the Watertown location. Thanks to our coworkers, community, and union siblings… WE SHUT IT DOWN ANYWAY! ❤️ #redcuprebellion pic.twitter.com/FLEx0WRZpT
— Boston Starbucks Workers United (@BostonSBWU) November 17, 2022
— Starbucks Workers United (@SBWorkersUnited) November 17, 2022
The AP reported that at least 257 Starbucks locations have voted to form a union since late last year, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Unions have been defeated at 57 locations.
“There’s a lot of fear before a store decides to go on strike,” said Michelle Eisen, an organizer of the first Starbucks store — in Buffalo, New York — to vote in favor of the union last December, according to CNN.
“Starbucks has been retaliating against union leaders across the country. But despite that fear, over 2,000 workers across the country are striking today and standing up for one another,” Eisen said.
The NLRB this week sought a national cease-and-desist order to ban Starbucks from retaliating against workers who support a union.
The filing said that there were a “number and pattern of Starbucks’ unfair labor practices … particularly discharges” against union supporters.
From a memo submitted by the NLRB in support of the injunction: “Given the number and pattern of Starbucks’ unfair labor practices here and elsewhere, particularly discharges, a nationwide cease-and-desist order is necessary to halt Starbucks’ systemic campaign of retaliation.” pic.twitter.com/jah8qJ7BQc
— Paul Blest (@pblest) November 15, 2022
“We had our Skype open so some of our organizers could tune in, and they said they weren’t going to do hybrid bargaining and they got up and walked out,” Hoffman said.
A Starbucks spokesman said the session was canceled because union representatives insisted on having fellow union members participate via video.
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