Workers for more than 100 Starbucks locations nationwide are staging a strike on the company’s “Red Cup Day” on Thursday in protest of union-busting tactics that the company has relentlessly unleashed on pro-union workers.
The “Red Cup Rebellion,” as workers have dubbed it, will see more than 2,000 workers on strike, the union says, with 112 stores on strike in dozens of cities from coast to coast. It is the largest national action taken by Starbucks Workers United so far, as the union comes up on the first anniversary of its first stores voting to unionize.
“Red Cup Day” is usually one of the company’s most profitable days, when workers give customers Starbucks-branded reusable red holiday cups with certain purchases. Striking workers will instead give out red union-branded reusable cups to customers “in response to Starbucks’ union-busting tactics and refusal to bargain,” the union wrote.
“Whether it’s firing one of my coworkers for wearing a suicide awareness pin, how they’ve closed down a dozen locations in the process of unionizing, or how we’re being denied benefits that non-union stores are getting, Starbucks has left behind the very values that drew many of us to the company in the first place,” said union organizer and Buffalo barista Michelle Eisen in a statement. “You cannot be pro-LGTBQ, pro-BLM, pro-sustainability, and anti-union.”
“This Red Cup Day, we’re organizing for a voice on the job and a true seat at the table,” Eisen continued.
The company has waged a relentless anti-union campaign, racking up nearly 40 complaints from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) encompassing hundreds of alleged labor violations. This includes four requests for injunctions from the agency — one of the strongest actions that labor officials can take against a union-busting company.
Workers have continually protested actions from the company, with dozens of strikes in the past months; earlier this year, workers in Boston waged a 64-day long strike in protest of the company’s hourly availability policy, and workers at the flagship roastery in New York City are currently in the fourth week of a strike as workers say the company has refused to fix mold and bed bug problems in the store.
The union has also been frustrated recently as the company, after delaying contract negotiations for months, has been stonewalling workers who come to the bargaining table, despite many of them taking days off to bargain. Workers have reported that the company’s negotiators will walk out of negotiations after just minutes of being in the room, refusing to bargain.
“They do the same thing in every session,” Eisen told The Washington Post. “It’s further delay tactics. They’re legally obligated to show up to the table, but they’re not done playing games.”
The company’s union-busting campaign isn’t just a problem for Starbucks workers, the union says — rather, it’s a problem that affects the entire labor movement as other companies learn from Starbucks’s actions.
“Starbucks’s continuous and lawless union busting has cast doubt on the future of the American labor movement. If Starbucks can break the law to stamp out their workers’ unionization efforts, they could be writing the playbook for countless other companies to follow,” the union said.
Workers hope that the “Red Cup Day” strike will demonstrate how essential workers are in the company’s profitability.
“One of the ways Starbucks makes their billions is by exploiting our labor, especially on days like their famous ‘Red Cup Day,’” said Boston shift manager Willow Montana. “If the company won’t bargain in good faith, why should we come to work where we are understaffed, underpaid, and overworked?”
The protest has garnered the support of major progressive leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who tweeted on Thursday, “I’m proud to stand with Starbucks workers on strike today across the country. CEO Howard Schultz is illegally union busting and firing workers for organizing. Mr. Schultz, it is time to recognize the stores that unionized and negotiate with workers in good faith.”