(CTN News) – According to the union that has been organizing Starbucks stores for the past year, over 2,000 employees at 112 locations will walk out on Thursday for one day.
It is striking to protest the retaliation against union supporters across the country, according to the union. Furthermore, the union is protesting what it perceives as the refusal of the company to negotiate a first labor contract. The unionization of 264 stores has been voted in by 264 stores. Despite nearly a year of voting, no contracts have yet been negotiated.
Tyler Keeling, 26, who has worked in a Starbucks for six years in Lakewood, California – near Los Angeles – said, “This is to show them we aren’t playing around.” He added, “We’re tired of their anti-union actions.”
As Keeling and other union supporters pointed out, each individual store was free to participate or not. There have already been a number of brief strikes in many stores over various issues. The first nationwide action has been taken.
“There are lots of fears before a store decides to strike,” said Michelle Eisen, a Starbucks union organizer last December. A number of union leaders across the country have been threatened with retaliation by Starbucks. Striking workers across the country are standing up for one another despite those fears.”
Some customers brought food and drinks to Keeling’s strikers when non-union Starbucks workers joined him on a one-day picket line in August.
The number of stores affected by Thursday’s strike is unclear.
Starbucks gives out reusable holiday cups with certain drink purchases on “Red Cup” day, when customers get discounts and extra points for future purchases if they keep the cups.
“Red Cup Day is an important day at Starbucks culturally.
There is a lot of excitement surrounding it,” Keeling said. It is a very effective way to draw attention to anti-union activities to hold the strike on a day when there is such a high volume of customers.
Instead of union cups, Starbucks Workers United is handing out red union cups during its strike.
Despite the fact that the store stayed open and many customers crossed the picket line, Aaron Cirillo, 23, said he’s not discouraged.
We don’t want to intimidate them. It’s all about telling them our story about the need for a fair contract,” he explained. In response to a question about his advice to customers, he said, “I would advise them to not get coffee this one day, or to go to another coffee shop in the city.”
Some customers turned away from the store after hearing the strikers’ chants, but there was a steady stream of customers.
In response to the strike, the company was not immediately available for comment. The company has historically denied retaliation against union-supporting employees and blamed the union for stalling negotiations. The company has defended the firing of union supporters as a proper enforcement of the rules that apply to all of its employees.
In an earlier statement, Starbucks said interest in unions is not an excuse to ignore company policies and procedures.
However, the National Labor Relations Board, which oversees union representation votes, filed in federal court a cease-and-desist order this week to prevent Starbucks from retaliating.
According to its filing, Starbucks engaged in unfair labor practices at its stores, including discharges of union supporters.