Starbucks workers walk out on Red Cup giveaway day

Unionized Starbucks workers walked off the job Thursday to press their demands for contract negotiations and to highlight their grievances over staffing and scheduling issues.

The stop coincides with the annual Starbucks promotion Red Cup Day, in which customers receive bright red reusable cups when they order a holiday-themed drink, such as a sugar cookie almondmilk latte.

Starbucks Workers United, the union representing the striking workers, has said events like Red Cup Day are forcing employees to handle more orders than usual, but not enough staff.

Union workers say the company has refused to bargain over staffing and scheduling issues that are particularly tough on such days.

The union represents more than 9,000 Starbucks workers at more than 300 stores nationwide. Workers at some union shops began a walkout on Wednesday in an attempt to surprise the company after learning of Thursday’s action.

Starbucks says the union is blocking bargaining sessions by insisting on holding meetings online, with rank-and-file members observing, rather than having negotiating teams sit in person.

“We believe Workers United’s priorities include the shared success of our associates and negotiating contracts for those they represent,” said Andrew Trull, a company spokesman.

The union is calling on the company to stop mobile orders on promotional days, which it says are too frequent.

Daisy Federspiel-Bayer, a shift supervisor at a Starbucks in Seattle, said her store received more than 200 orders in a half-hour during an October promotion in which customers could get 50 percent off any drink. The store was so overcrowded that some drinks and food went to waste, and orders were stopped, Ms. Federspiel-Bayer said.

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“I’ve seen baristas become stressed, verbally harassed by customers and feel pressured by employers to keep working when it’s unreasonable to do so,” she said.

Rachel Simandel is a shift supervisor at a unionized Starbucks in Chicago, where workers walked out Wednesday and Thursday. Ms. Simandl said chronic staffing leaves employees exhausted and hurts business by increasing wait times for customers and reducing service quality.

“Straight up, what we need is more coverage on the ground,” Ms. Chimandel said. “Instead of three, there should be four or five. It makes a huge difference in the flow of the day.

Thursday’s walkout was the latest development in a battle between the company and organized labor, as employees at a store in Buffalo voted to form a union in 2021. Of the stores that had election results certified by the National Labor Relations Board, 363 stores voted to unionize and 71 voted against unionization.

In September, a judge to the Labor Board He ruled Starbucks violated federal law that restricted pay raises and benefit improvements to non-unionized workers. Another administrative judge ruled in March that Starbucks repeatedly violated federal labor laws by illegally firing employees who attempted to unionize by organizing a union.

In June, unionized workers announced a week-long strike at more than 150 stores to protest what they said was a ban on the company’s Pride Month clothing and treatment of LGBTQ workers — which management denied. Starbucks said 21 stores were temporarily closed due to the protest.

Noam Schieber Contributed report.

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