Starbucks Workers Strike to Protest the Company’s Harsh Union Busting

On Friday, Starbucks workers from coast to coast protested against the company’s anti-union campaign, which is becoming increasingly aggressive as the movement rapidly spreads across the country.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, workers demonstrated against the company on Friday morning to protest the firing of former pro-union Starbucks worker and college student Sharon Gilman. The company recently terminated Gilman after a sink fell on her while she was washing dishes, accusing her of purposely breaking the sink. Demonstrators demanded that Gilman be reinstated, and said that the allegations are false.

“Sharon Gilman is one of the best partners we have at our store. We are extremely disappointed that the company we saw her working so hard for is willing to fire her over something she is not responsible for and without consulting the witnesses available,” workers at the Wake Forest and Six Forks Road store wrote in a letter to CEO Howard Schultz.

“If our equipment is so flimsy that it can fall off of a wall only two years after installation, we are concerned about the safety of our coworkers and the fact that Starbucks would rather find a scapegoat than accept responsibility,” they continued.

Gilman is one of several pro-union workers who were fired by Starbucks over the past couple of weeks. Since Schultz took the helm as CEO on April 4, the company has fired at least four pro-union workers, likely in hopes of scaring employees away from supporting the union and to throw a wrench into upcoming union elections.

Meanwhile, the workers’ union movement grows stronger by the day. Over 200 stores have filed to unionize, and 21 stores have successfully unionized so far, with a handful of unanimous wins across several states over the past weeks. Most recently, a store in Springfield, Virginia, voted against the union, but Starbucks union organizer Richard Bensinger wrote on Thursday that the loss was the result of “outrageous union busting” at the store by “billionaire bully” Schultz.

Workers at two stores in Seattle walked off the job to protest Starbucks’s union busting on Friday. At 5th and Pike and Eastlake Avenue, workers are striking until Sunday to protest what they say are unfair labor practices implemented by the company. The union, Starbucks Workers United, says that the company has been making up new policies to retaliate against pro-union workers and slashing hours despite high profits.

“Given Starbucks’s public portrayal of their empathy and dedication for their partners, it is incredibly disheartening to see such malicious attempts to silence us,” said Eastlake barista Natalie Mattera. “We are the heart of this company and we deserve to be treated as such.”

Starbucks Workers United has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the company with the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over what the union says are illegal retaliatory actions by the company.

With Schultz in charge, the company’s union-busting tactics have become increasingly brash. On top of firing pro-union workers, the company has begun posting flyers in stores with anti-union information. The flyers include fake tweets made to look like they were sent from the union’s official Twitter account.

The fabricated tweets show the union making general statements about unionizing that the company then responds to. “In collective bargaining, you start with everything you have and negotiate for more from there,” one fake tweet reads. Underneath the tweet, Starbucks corporate “debunks” the claim with anti-union rhetoric, describing how the company could negotiate against workers’ interests during contract discussions.

The company currently faces legal trouble from the NLRB, as the board found that they have broken federal labor laws several times during the union campaign. Most recently, the NLRB found that the company illegally fired seven union organizers in Memphis, Tennessee. The organizers, who were terminated in February, made up nearly the entire organizing committee at their store.