On Starbucks' Red Cup Day, one of the busiest days of the coffee chain's year, over 100 stores closed as workers went on strike. Here's everything you need to know:
What is happening?
Members of the Starbucks Workers Union closed over 100 stores across the country on one of the company's busiest days of the year in protest of stalled contract negotiations, The Washington Post explains. The union represents approximately 7,000 Starbucks workers across the country.
The union claims that Starbucks has unnecessarily delayed discussing labor contracts, while the company asserts that some of the union's conditions for negotiation are impossible to accept, such as allowing members to observe negotiations silently on Zoom.
Some workers took to picketing outside their stores while others staged walkouts. The protest took place on Nov. 17, so-called "Red Cup Day," when the company gives out holiday-themed reusable cups. It is one of the busiest days of the year for the company, and Starbucks was reportedly already struggling with staffing before the walkout, according to The Associated Press. "It's honestly one of those days that a lot of ... baristas try to ... ask for off because it's always always a very insane day," Josie Serrano, a worker in Long Beach, California, told NPR.
Why are workers striking?
Starbucks employees were advocating for higher pay, better and more consistent schedules, and higher staffing at busier stores, AP writes.
Starbucks has had a record of being anti-union. The company has fired over 85 workers for working as union organizers. New York City also sued Starbucks in September for firing a long-time barista and union organizer unlawfully. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued multiple complaints against Starbucks, including 81 charges and 548 alleged labor law violations, The Guardian reports. Over the past year, 264 Starbucks stores nationwide voted to unionize.
The union claims that Starbucks' corporate representatives have either walked out of, or last-minute rescheduled, bargaining sessions where the contracts would be discussed, making it difficult for members to participate in them, NPR reports. Starbucks' executive vice president of communications, A.J. Jones, denies that claim, instead saying that the company has been "overly aggressive" in scheduling bargaining sessions. He also claims that the union's stipulation of wanting to observe proceedings violates the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits the recording of bargaining sessions.
The union has refuted this claim, saying that it wants union members to sit in on the call, not record it. Serrano, the California barista, told The Washington Post that "we want to send a strong signal to the company that, 'Hey, this is not something we're playing around with anymore.'"
What's next for Starbucks?
The union has escalated its tactics since the summer when individual stores began to go on more frequent and longer strikes in the hopes of sending a message to Starbucks, The New York Times reports. The company has 60 new bargaining sessions scheduled before mid-December but no agreements have been met yet. In reference to previous union protests, Starbucks said in a statement, "Interest in a union does not exempt partners from following policies and procedures that apply to all partners."
While only a few of the approximately 9,000 Starbucks stores nationwide went on strike, the demonstrations nevertheless brought attention to what Starbucks' critics say is the company's double standard. "Starbucks has left behind the very values that drew many of us to the company in the first place," Michelle Eisen, a worker and union organizer, told the Times. "You cannot be pro-LGTBQ, pro-BLM, pro-sustainability, and anti-union."
The NLRB's complaints about Starbucks' have also been ongoing. In November, the NLRB filed for a national cease and desist order on the company to prevent it from retaliating against union workers. This will be the fourth time that the NLRB has requested federal intervention over Starbucks' actions.
In turn, Starbucks has also asked the NLRB to temporarily suspend all U.S. store union elections, alleging that regional officials improperly coordinated with the union organizers. A decision is still pending.