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100 Starbucks Stores Strike to Send New CEO a Message: No More Union Busting

The workers say that the new CEO should reject the anti-union tactics of his predecessor, Howard Schultz.

Starbucks workers in Biddeford, Maine, participate in the “Red Cup Rebellion”, a nationwide strike demanding the company fully staff union stores and bargain in good faith, on November 15, 2022.

Hundreds of Starbucks workers from coast to coast are striking on Wednesday to send the company’s new CEO, Laxman Narasimhan, a message to break the trend and bring an end to the company’s fierce union-busting campaign.

Over 100 stores are going on strike, including in major cities like Boston, New York, D.C., Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Workers are also planning to strike in Seattle, where they will march outside of the company’s headquarters the day before the company holds its annual shareholder meeting.

“Starbucks baristas like me are the ones who keep our stores running. We remember our customers’ regular orders, make the lattes, clean up spills, and are often the bright spot of our customers’ days. We are the heart and soul of Starbucks,” Sarah Pappin, Seattle Starbucks worker, said in a statement. “Instead of celebrating the law-breaking former CEO hell-bent on silencing us, Starbucks should respect our right to organize and meet us at the bargaining table.”

“As Starbucks celebrates their provenance and record profits this week, my partners have to deal with the reality that we are being nickel and dimed to extract as much labor as cheaply as possible,” said Maria Flores, a Starbucks employee in Queens, New York.

Workers are demanding a seat at the table in Starbucks’s shareholder and other corporate meetings. Earlier this month, the union wrote a letter to shareholders urging them to vote for a proposal for a third party to assess the company’s commitment to workers’ rights, saying that their union-busting campaign runs counter to its own internal labor pledges.

The workers are also asking for better conditions like livable wages, consistent hours and the ability to unionize and organize their workplaces without interference from the company, according to a press release. The company has indeed pulled out a dizzying array of anti-union tactics as workers have organized their union, including firing workers in retaliation for unionizing and permanently shutting down stores that have unionized or are unionizing.

Recently, a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge ruled that Starbucks had violated federal labor laws hundreds of times in Buffalo alone; overall, according to Starbucks Workers United, the NLRB has found over 1,400 labor law violations from the company in the less than two years that workers have been unionizing.

Starbucks Workers United says that new CEO Laxman Narasimhan, who started his tenure on Monday after three-time CEO and board member Howard Schultz stepped down two weeks earlier than expected, has a chance to buck Schultz’s anti-union tactics and pave a new path for the company and its workers. Schultz stepped down just before he is scheduled to testify in a hearing about the company’s union busting led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) next Wednesday.

“Wednesday’s day of action will also serve to welcome the company’s new chief executive, Laxman Narasimhan, and send him a message that the transition in the C-Suite provides an opportunity for the company to stop its unprecedented campaign of union busting and instead partner with its workers and our union to build a company that truly lives up to its stated progressive values,” says the press release.

Wednesday’s strike is one of the largest actions held by the union so far. Last year, workers walked out several times in similarly-sized strikes to protest the company’s union busting; in November, the union staged a “Red Cup Rebellion” on the company’s “Red Cup Day,” in which the company rakes in some of its highest profits of the year and gives out branded red cups to customers.