More than 1,000 Starbucks employees at about 100 stores nationwide walked off the job on Friday in protest of the company’s union busting, waging what is now the largest national strike action in the union campaign’s history.
Workers are embarking on a three-day strike that will last through the weekend in what Starbucks Workers United has dubbed the “Double Down Strike,” in response to the company’s doubling down on union-busting efforts around the first anniversary of the first Starbucks location unionizing, the union says.
“Starbucks sent a clear message when they closed the Broadway and Denny store,” said Michelle Eisen, a Buffalo barista and Starbucks Workers United organizer. “They’re doubling down on their union-busting, so we’re doubling down, too. We’re demanding fair staffing, an end to store closures, and that Starbucks bargain with us in good faith.”
The company’s refusal to bargain with workers and continued alleged unfair labor practices are the main reasons for the strike, workers say. The strike represents an escalation of the workers’ efforts to force Starbucks to work with the union despite the company’s fierce opposition.
“The main reason why we’re taking this action is because of unfair labor practices the company is engaging in that the [National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)] is investigating,” Collin Pollitt, a barista union organizer in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, told In These Times. “The most recent are the denial of credit card tipping to union stores, hours cuts and the closing of union stores.”
Indeed, the company has racked up 45 allegations of illegal union busting from the NLRB, encompassing over 900 violations of federal labor laws, according to the union. Labor officials have sought to enforce some of the strictest actions that the labor board can take against Starbucks, including injunctions against the company for refusing to negotiate and a nationwide cease and desist to stop the company from firing pro-union workers.
On the picket line, striking workers are encouraging customers not to buy gift cards for the holidays this year as part of the union’s “No Contract No Gift Cards” campaign. Workers say that buying gift cards empowers the company to further union bust.
“Each year, the company makes over a hundred million dollars from gift cards that are never even used by customers. This free money given to Starbucks goes straight into their profits and overfunded union-busting attempts,” Nabretta Hardin, a unionized Tennessee barista, said. “This is why we’re asking customers to skip the gift cards this year in solidarity with unionizing employees.”
Last month, about 1,000 workers walked out on the company’s “Red Cup Day,” a high-grossing day for the company in which employees hand out red holiday cups to customers who order certain items. The union instead handed out red union-branded cups and asked the company to give workers a “true seat at the table.”
Shortly after the “Red Cup Rebellion” strike, the company announced that it was closing the Broadway and Denny location in Seattle, which was the first location in the company’s hometown to vote to unionize. The closure is the latest in a series of store shutdowns that appear to be aimed specifically at unionized stores. So far, Starbucks workers have unionized over 260 stores, with Starbucks Workers United representing over 7,000 workers across the U.S.