Thousands of unionized Starbucks workers walked off the job Thursday to press their demands for contract negotiations and highlight their grievances over staffing and scheduling issues.
The pause coincides with the annual Starbucks promotion, Red Cup Day, in which customers receive bright red reusable cups when they order a holiday-themed drink like the Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte.
Starbucks Workers United, the union representing the striking employees, has said that events like Red Cup Day force employees to handle more orders than usual, but without enough staff.
Unionized workers say the company has refused to bargain over staffing and scheduling issues that are especially acute on such days, and the union filed an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board over the issue this year. Has been filed.
The union represents more than 9,000 Starbucks employees at more than 300 stores nationwide. Employees at some unionized stores began a walkout Wednesday in an effort to surprise the company, which was aware of Thursday’s action.
Starbucks says the union is the party that has stifled bargaining sessions by insisting on holding meetings online, with rank-and-file members observing, rather than having negotiating teams sit in person.
“We hope Workers United’s priorities will change to include contract negotiations for the shared success of our partners and the people they represent,” company spokesman Andrew Trull said in a statement.
The union is calling on the company to end mobile ordering during promotion days, which it says is increasing.
Daisy Federspiel-Bayer, a shift supervisor at a Starbucks in Seattle, said her store received more than 200 orders in half an hour during an October promotion in which customers could get 50 percent off any drink. The store was so packed that some drinks and food were wasted and orders were put on hold, Ms. Federspiel-Bayer said.
“I witnessed baristas having a mental breakdown, being verbally berated by customers and feeling pressured by owners to continue performing even though it was inappropriate to do so,” he said.
Rachel Simmonds is a shift supervisor at a unionized Starbucks in Chicago where employees walk out on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Ms Simmonds said long-term staff shortages were exhausting staff and hurting business, with increased waiting times for customers and reduced quality of service.
“Simply put, we need more coverage on the floor,” she said. “Instead of just having three people, having four or five people. “It makes a huge difference to the flow of the day.”
Thursday’s walkout is the latest development in the fight between the company and organized workers as employees at a store in Buffalo voted to form a union in 2021. Of the shops whose election results have been certified by the National Labor Relations Board, 363 shops voted in favor of union formation, while 71 voted against union formation.
In September, a Labor Board judge ruled that Starbucks violated federal law by limiting wage increases and benefit improvements for non-union workers. Another administrative judge ruled in March that Starbucks had repeatedly violated federal labor laws by illegally interfering with union organizing and firing workers who sought to form a union.
In June, unionized workers announced a week-long strike at more than 150 stores, protesting the company’s ban on Pride Month apparel and its treatment of LGBTQ workers – a claim rejected by management. Starbucks said 21 stores were temporarily closed due to the protests.
Noam Scheiber contributed reporting.