Starbucks workers go on strike, advance fight for a union

By Candace Wagner
January 2, 2023

ROSS TOWNSHIP, Pa. — Strikers picketed the Starbucks here Dec. 16-18 as part of a three-day national work stoppage, organized by Starbucks Workers United at some 100 of the company’s shops, demanding union recognition and negotiations for a contract. According to Workers United, over 1,000 baristas participated, forcing some of the stores to shut down.

“We just won a union election this September,” striker Elm Hoover, a full-time worker with three years at this restaurant, told the Militant Dec. 17. “Because of short staffing and disrespect from management, we need the union. There are safety hazards and it’s difficult for us to even keep up with the cleaning.”

Striker Coriander Boyle works part time and is a senior at North Hills High School. “The strike is amazing,” he said. “We deserve to be treated fairly. We are the labor. The company has nothing without us.”

Workers at some 270 stores out of 9,000 nationwide have voted to unionize over the last year, after employees at a Buffalo Starbucks store at the end of 2021 became the first in the country to join Workers United, part of the Service Employees International Union.

Gracie Nira, a Starbucks worker who is also on the National Bargaining Committee for Workers United, told a rally at one of the chain’s stores in St. Paul, Minnesota, that “the company is stalling on negotiations and is refusing to meet the union to settle a contract.”

Barista Lola Rubens said workers never know what their hours will be and often have their hours cut. In addition to Starbucks workers, Teamsters, and members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Miller union and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union came to the rally there to show their support.

In a Dec. 16 news release announcing the three-day strike, the union reported that Starbucks has closed several stores that voted to unionize, which it calls a decision “to escalate their anti-union campaign,” and has fired union activists.

“We’re demanding fair staffing, an end to store closures and that Starbucks bargain with us in good faith,” Michelle Eisen, a worker at Starbucks’ Elmwood location in Philadelphia, told the press.

Customers came to a Memphis, Tennessee, Starbucks to show their solidarity. One offered to bring Dunkin’ Donuts coffee to the picket line. Another, Todd Strickland, said, “It’s important for employees to know their value and to be paid properly.”

Starbucks announced in November that its revenue rose 3% to a record $8.41 billion last quarter.

Edwin Fruit in Minneapolis contributed to this article.