Starbucks staffers plan 100-store strike, citing failure to bargain

Josh Eidelson
Bloomberg News (TNS)

Starbucks Corp. baristas seeking union contracts with the coffee chain plan to mount daylong strikes Thursday at more than 100 cafes, saying management has refused to bargain in good faith.

The planned work stoppage is the largest attempted so far by Starbucks Workers United, which has unionized around 260 of the company’s roughly 9,000 corporate-run U.S. sites over the past year.

The union says Starbucks has refused to negotiate in good faith, and that not a single store has reached a collective bargaining agreement with the company. While Workers United has prevailed in organizing votes across the country since its first victory in Buffalo, New York, the pace of new petitions has slowed.

A protester waves a sign that read "unionize" near the Country Club Plaza Starbucks store where dozens of Starbucks employees and union supporters protested alleged anti-union tactics by the company Thursday, March 3, 2022. (Jill Toyoshiba/Kansas City Star/TNS)

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The demonstrations are pegged to Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives away reusable holiday-themed cups. Striking workers plan to give customers their own union-themed cups instead.

Starbucks has denied the union’s claims that it’s not bargaining fairly, and has filed claims with the National Labor Relations Board accusing Workers United of refusing to negotiate in good faith.

A company spokesperson said Starbucks will respect the workers’ rights to participate in lawful protests.

Regional NLRB directors have issued dozens of complaints accusing Seattle-based Starbucks of illegal tactics, including anti-union threats and firings. The company has denied wrongdoing.

But even if the union prevails through the agency’s adjudication process, the NLRB lacks the authority to levy punitive damages for violations.

Workers at a Pittsburgh store voted to unionize in April and held their first contract talks with the company last week. But the discussion ended in minutes when the company walked out in a dispute over whether some workers could participate via Zoom, according to employee Christi Sessa, who plans to participate in Thursday’s strike.

“Unfortunately the NLRB has very little power,” Sessa said. “We’re serious…If you don’t meet us to bargain, there will be consequences.”