Members and supporters of Starbucks Workers United protest outside of a Starbucks store in Dupont Circle on November 16, 2023 in Washington, DC
New York (AFP) - Worker activists at Starbucks called for a strike at unionized coffee shops in the United States on Thursday as the labor group seeks to pressure the coffee giant on stalled contract talks.
The employee walkout, dubbed “Red Cup Rebellion,” was timed with a holiday-oriented company promotion that the labor group says is representative of company initiatives marred by understaffing and employee stress.
About 360 Starbucks locations with more than 9,000 employees have voted to unionize in the United States, where the company has more than 10,000 company-owned stores.
The union, Starbucks Workers United, said the stoppage involved “thousands” of Starbucks Baristas at “hundreds” of stores in “more than 200 cities across the nation.”
A Starbucks spokesman said the action involves “fewer than a hundred stores where some partners have chosen to participate in protest activities,” the majority of which were “open and serving customers.”
Neha Cremin, who works for Starbucks in Oklahoma City, joined the walkout to protest promotional events for which the company is not adequately staffed.
“Starbucks is creating unnecessarily stressful working conditions by scheduling promotion after promotion without increasing staffing,” Cremin said in the union’s press release.
“Understaffing hurts workers and also creates an unpleasant experience for customers. Starbucks has made it clear that they won’t listen to workers, so we’re advocating for ourselves by going on strike.”
The union has also accused the company of conducting a “coordinated, scorched-earth campaign ” to “illegally frustrate and stall bargaining” on contracts at the fraction of stores that have voted to unionize.
Starbucks defended its staffing practices, saying store schedules are created three weeks in advance to allow for worker input and preference.
The company also expressed its willingness to negotiate a contract, accusing the union of not agreeing to meet for “more than four months.”