Workers at more than 100 Starbucks US stores are on strike Thursday in their biggest labor action since the company’s campaign to unionize its stores began late last year.
The walkout coincides with Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives out free reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink. Workers say it is 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 demanding better pay, more consistent schedules and higher staffing levels in busier stores. According to Starbucks Workers United, the group organizing the effort, stores in 25 states planned to participate in the labor action. Strikers are giving away their red cups with the union logo.
Starbucks, which opposes the unionization effort, said it is aware of the walkout and respects its employees’ right to legally protest. The Seattle company noted that the protests are taking place at a small number of its 9,000 company-operated US locations.
“We are committed to all partners and will continue to work together to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” the company said in a statement Thursday.
Some workers plan to hold a full-day sit-in, while others will hold shorter walkouts. The union said the goal is to keep stores closed during the strike, and noted that the company usually has difficulty keeping staff during Red Cup Day because it is so busy.
Willow Montana, a shift manager at a Starbucks store in Brighton, Massachusetts, plans to strike because Starbucks has not begun bargaining with the store despite a successful union vote in April.
“If the company won’t bargain in good faith, why should we come to work where we have fewer employees, less pay and more work?” Montana said.
Others, including Michelle Essen, a union organizer at one of the first stores to organize in Buffalo, New York, said workers are angry that Starbucks promised higher wages and benefits For non-union shops. Starbucks says it is following the law and cannot offer wage increases to union stores without bargaining.
At least 257 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since late last year, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Voting has taken place in fifty-seven shops where workers have opted not to form a union.
Starbucks and the union begin contract talks at 53 stores, with 13 additional sessions, Starbucks Workers United said. No agreement has been reached so far.
The process has been controversial. Earlier this week, a regional director with the NLRB filed a request for an injunction against Starbucks in federal court, saying the company violated labor law when it fired a union organizer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. removed. The regional director asked the court to order Starbucks to reinstate the employee and to stop interfering in the nationwide unionization campaign.
It was the fourth time the NLRB asked a federal court to intervene. In August, a federal judge ruled That Starbucks had to reinstate seven union organizers fired in Memphis, Tennessee. A similar case in Buffalo has yet to be decided, while a federal judge has ruled against the NLRB in a case in Phoenix.
Meanwhile, Starbucks has asked the NLRB to temporarily suspend All union elections at its US stores, citing allegations from a board employee that regional officials improperly coordinated with union organizers. The verdict in that matter is yet to come.