More than 2,000 workers at 112 Starbucks locations will go on a day-long strike Thursday, according to the union, which has been organizing stores for a year.
The union says it is a high-profile protest against retaliation against union supporters across the country. She is also protesting the company’s refusal to negotiate an initial collective agreement with the union. There are 264 shops that voted for union representation. But even in stores that voted almost a year ago, no deals have yet been negotiated.
“This is to show them we’re not messing around,” said Tyler Keeling, a 26-year-old union supporter who has worked at a Starbucks in Lakewood, California — near Los Angeles — for the past six years. “We are done with their anti-union retaliation and they are withdrawing from negotiations.”
Keeling and other union supporters say it is up to each individual store whether or not to participate in the nationwide strike. Many shops have staged short strikes already on specific topics. But this is the first nationwide campaign.
“There is a lot of fear before a store decides to go on strike,” he said Michelle Eisenan organizer of first Starbucks to vote for the union last December. “Starbucks has retaliated against union leaders across the country. But despite that fear, today over 2,000 workers across the country are on strike and standing up for one another.”
When Keeling’s store staged a one-day strike in August, Starbucks was
(SUB) Workers from nearby non-union stores joined the picket line, he said, and some customers brought food and drinks to the strikers.
It’s not clear how many of the stores affected by Thursday’s action can remain open during the strike.
The protest comes on”Red cup” Tag at Starbucks when it runs out reusable holiday mugs on certain beverage purchases that entitle customers to discounts and additional bonus points on future purchases.
“Culturally, Red Cup Day is an important day at Starbucks. People go crazy over it,” Keeling said. He said holding the strike on a busy day is a great way to draw attention to anti-union activity.
The union is calling its strike a “Red Cup Rebellion” and instead is handing out red Starbucks Workers United union cups to customers.
At a store across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City, workers walked the picket line despite their store not having a union vote as of December 8. The store was open, with the help of managers brought in from other stores, the strikers said. The store’s employees declined to comment on the strike.
Aaron Cirillo, a 23-year-old who has worked at the store since August, said he was not discouraged by the fact that the store was able to remain open or that many customers crossed the picket line.
“We’re not trying to intimidate them. We just want them to hear our story about the need for a fair deal,” he said. When asked what he would say to customers if he could, he replied: “I would urge them to consider showing support by not getting coffee that one day, or to another shop in town to go for a coffee.”
The chants from the strikers were enough to persuade some customers to turn away, but there was a good flow of shoppers into the store.
The company could not immediately be reached for comment on the strike early Thursday. In the past she has denied retaliating against employees for their support of the union and has blamed the union for a lack of progress at the negotiating table. Starbucks has defended the firings of union supporters as properly enforcing rules that apply to all of its employees, which it calls “partners.”
“Interest in a union does not exempt partners from following policies and procedures common to all partners,” Starbucks said in a previous statement.
But this week the National Labor Relations Board – which oversees union representation votes – filed a national injunction in federal court to stop Starbucks from retaliating against union supporters.
The NLRB filing said there had been a “number and pattern of unfair labor practices by Starbucks…particularly, layoffs” against union supporters at the stores.