Starbucks workers at more than 100 stores across the U.S. are striking Thursday in the biggest labor action since the company’s campaign to unionize its stores began late last year.
The outings coincide with Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives out free reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink. Employees say it’s often one of the busiest days of the year. Starbucks declined to say how many red cups it plans to distribute.
Workers say they are seeking better pay, more consistent schedules and higher staffing levels in busy stores. Stores in 25 states planned to participate in the strike, according to Starbucks Workers United, the group that organized the effort. Strikers hand out their red mugs with union logos.
Starbucks, which opposes unionization efforts, has said it is aware of the strikes and respects its workers’ right to legally protest. The Seattle-based company noted that the protests are taking place at a small fraction of the 9,000 locations operated by the company in the United States.
“We remain committed to all partners and will continue to work together, side by side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” the company said Thursday.
Some workers planned to picket all day, while others planned shorter walkouts. The union said its aim was to close stores during the holidays, noting that the company is usually too busy to find staff on Red Cup Day.
Willow Montana, a shift manager at a Starbucks store in Brighton, Massachusetts, planned to go on strike because Starbucks did not begin bargaining with the store despite a successful union vote in April.
“If the company won’t bargain honestly, why should we come to work in an understaffed, underpaid, overworked place?” Montana said.
Others, including Michelle Eisen, a union organizer at one of the first stores to organize in Buffalo, New York, said workers were outraged by Starbucks’ promise. higher pay and benefits to non-union stores. Starbucks says it follows the law and can’t give union stores raises without bargaining.
At least 257 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since late last year, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Fifty-seven stores held a vote in which workers decided not to join the union.
Starbucks and unity contract negotiations have begun At 53 stores, 13 additional sessions are planned, Starbucks Workers United said. No agreement has been reached yet.
The process has been controversial. Earlier this week, the NLRB’s regional director filed a punitive action against Starbucks in federal court, saying the company violated labor laws when it fired a union organizer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The regional director asked the court to reinstate the employee and stop interfering with the union campaign across the country.
This is the fourth time the NLRB has asked a federal court to intervene. in August, ruled to a federal judge Starbucks had to reinstate seven union organizers who were fired in Memphis, Tennessee. A similar case in Buffalo is still pending, with a federal judge ruling against the NLRB in a case in Phoenix.
Meanwhile, Starbucks asked the NLRB temporarily suspended all union elections in its U.S. stores, citing a board employee’s allegations that regional officials had improperly coordinated with union organizers. A decision on this case is awaited.
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