AP – Starbucks workers at more than 100 United States (US) stores are on strike on Thursday in their largest labour action since a campaign to unionise the company’s stores began late last year.
The walkouts coincide with Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives free reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink. Workers said it’s often one of the busiest days of the year. Starbucks declined to say how many red cups it plans to distribute.
Workers said they’re seeking better pay, more consistent schedules and higher staffing levels in busy stores. Stores in 25 states planned to take part in the labour action, according to Starbucks Workers United, the group organising the effort. Strikers are handing out their own red cups with union logos.
Starbucks, which opposes the unionisation effort, said it is aware of the walkouts and respects its employees’ right to lawfully protest. The Seattle company noted that the protests are happening at a small number of its 9,000 company-run US locations.
“We remain committed to all partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” the company said on Thursday in a statement.
Some workers planned to picket all day while others will do shorter walkouts. The union said the goal is to shut stores down during the strikes, and noted that the company usually has difficulty staffing during Red Cup Day because it’s so busy.
Silvia Baldwin, 26 and Tzvi Ortiz, 31, said they love being baristas at the 34th Street and Chestnut Street Starbucks in Philadelphia. But the work has gotten harder, with the understaffed store trying to fill delivery orders and in-person orders simultaneously.
“It’s just not viable. It’s very stressful,” Ortiz said. “And a lot of people don’t really notice, like, the humans behind this assembly.”
Baldwin, who is on the store’s bargaining committee, is also frustrated that the union hasn’t been able to bargain with Starbucks. Striking on Starbucks’ busiest day felt inspiring and it will “be impossible to ignore”, she said.
Others, including Michelle Eisen, a union organiser at one of the first stores to organise in Buffalo, New York, said workers are angry that Starbucks promised higher pay and benefits to non-union stores. Starbucks said it is following the law and can’t give union stores pay hikes without bargaining.