Labor activists marched between the Manhattan penthouses of top Starbucks and Amazon executives in a Labor Day protest on Monday, demanding recognition for unionized workers and an end to anti-worker union-busting practices at both companies.
The March for Recognition, organized by Amazon Labor Union (ALU), began at Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s penthouse. Protesters then marched up Fifth Avenue to Amazon executive chairman Jeff Bezos’s penthouse, before ending the march with a rally in Times Square — the “heart of capitalism,” as one speaker dubbed it.
Amazon union organizers from Bessemer, Alabama, and Starbucks and Amazon organizers from across New York joined the protest, along with workers from Trader Joe’s and Google who spoke at the rally. Protesters also brought “Scabby the Rat,” a mascot often brought out by labor organizers for pro-union causes, and inflated it in front of Bezos’s building.
“The way we’re organizing is real grassroots, nontraditional, new school, new generation of organizing, and that’s what it’s going to take to get these companies to bend a knee and come to the table,” ALU President Chris Smalls told protesters in front of Schultz’s building, per Gothamist.
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As protesters marched to Times Square, Smalls yelled, “billionaires have got to go!”
As ALU noted in its press release on the protest, it’s been over five months since workers at the JFK8 Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted for union representation, but “Amazon continues to deny the clear results.” Amazon may soon be forced by law to recognize the union, however; last week, a federal labor official rejected Amazon’s attempt to overturn the results of the JFK8 election, a decision that will likely be held up by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Workers organizing with Starbucks Workers United also protested for recognition from the company in New York and at planned “sip-ins” in about 110 stores in 25 states across the country over the weekend. Although over 220 stores have won their union elections, the company had only held bargaining sessions with three of the stores as of last month. Meanwhile, the company has fired over 90 union leaders across the country in its anti-union campaign, according to the union.
“Worker solidarity scares them because they know we have the power,” Brooklyn Starbucks worker Megan DiMotta told ralliers in front of Schultz’s building.
Starbucks may also find itself in legal trouble soon. New York City Mayor Eric Adams’s administration filed a lawsuit against the company last week over its firing of a pro-union worker in Queens, for allegedly violating the city’s law mandating that workers can’t be fired without “just cause.”