More than 2,000 employees at 112 Starbucks locations are set to begin a day-long strike on Thursday, according to the union that has been organizing the stores for a year.
The union says it is on strike to protest reprisals against union supporters across the country. He also protests against what he calls the company’s refusal to negotiate with the union on a first contract of employment. There are 264 stores that voted in favor of union representation. But no contract has yet been negotiated, even in stores that voted almost a year ago.
“It’s to show them we’re not playing games,” said Tyler Keeling, a 26-year-old labor activist who has worked at a Starbucks in Lakewood, California – near Los Angeles – for six years. “We are done with their anti-union retaliation and they are walking away from negotiations.”
Keeling and other union supporters say it was up to each store whether or not to participate in the national strike. Many stores have already staged brief strikes over specific issues. But this is the first nationwide action.
“There’s a lot of fear before a store decides to go on strike,” said Michelle Eisen, an organizer at the first Starbucks store to vote for the union last December. “Starbucks has retaliated against union leaders across the country. But despite this fear, more than 2,000 workers across the country are striking today and standing up for each other.
When the Keeling store staged a one-day strike in August, Starbucks (SBUX) workers from nearby non-union stores joined the picket line, he said, and some customers brought food and drinks to the strikers.
It is unclear how many stores affected by Thursday’s action will be able to remain open during the strike.
The protest takes place on “Red Cup” day at Starbucks, when it hands out reusable holiday cups with certain beverage purchases that entitle customers to discounts and additional bonus points on future purchases.
“Culturally, Red Cup Day is an important day at Starbucks. People are going crazy about it,” Keeling said. He said holding the strike on a day when the volume of customers is so high is a great way to draw attention to union-busting activity.
The union calls its strike a “red cup rebellion” and instead hands out Starbucks Workers United red cups to customers.
At a store across from the Port Authority bus station in New York, workers marched to the picket line even though their store does not hold a union vote until December 12. 8. The store was open, with the help of managers from other stores, according to the strikers. Store staff would not comment on the strike.
Aaron Cirillo, a 23-year-old who has worked at the store since August, said he was not discouraged that the store was able to stay open or that many customers crossed the picket line.
“We’re not trying to intimidate them. We just want them to hear our story about the need for a fair contract,” he said. When asked what he would say to clients s if he could, he replied, “I urge them to think about showing their support by not having coffee that day, or going to any other store in town for coffee.”
The chants of the strikers were enough to make some customers turn away, but there was a good flow of customers in the store.
The company was not immediately available to comment on the strike early Thursday. In the past, he has denied retaliating against an employee for supporting the union, and he blamed the union for the lack of progress at the bargaining table. Starbucks has defended the layoffs of union supporters that took place as a proper application of rules that apply to all of its employees, whom it calls “partners.”
“Interest in a union does not exempt partners from following policies and procedures that apply to all partners,” Starbucks said in an earlier statement.
But this week, the National Labor Relations Board — which oversees union representation votes — filed a nationwide cease and desist order in federal court to stop Starbucks from retaliating against union supporters.
The NLRB filing said there had been “a number and pattern of unfair labor practices by Starbucks…particularly firings” against union supporters at its stores.