Over 2,000 Starbucks Employees Are On Strike. Here's What We Know

Starbucks workers are at the center of one of the most highly publicized labor movements in recent history. After the coffee giant saw its first pro-union vote at an outpost in Buffalo in 2021, per AP News, baristas across the country mobilized around union representation as well. What followed was a veritable saga of legal battles between Starbucks HQ (whose efforts to dissuade employees from hitching their wagons to Workers United included health benefit incentives for non-union employees, per PBS) and the National Labor Relations Board, bolstered by worker strikes and walk-outs. In July 2022, Nations Restaurant News reported that over 200 Starbucks stores had voted to unionize in hopes of receiving better training programs, expanded benefits, and improved working conditions. 

When September rolled around, it seemed like Starbucks' outgoing CEO Howard Schultz and other head honchos were finally ready to negotiate. Per a public statement, the company sent letters to the 234 stores that had voted to unionize. "We look forward to these negotiations and hopefully setting dates and securing locations for contract bargaining," wrote the brand. But when those meetings began in October, things didn't go according to plan. Vice reports that Starbucks representatives walked out of five "collective bargaining sessions" with union members and refused to continue negotiations so long as Workers United allowed baristas to join the meetings remotely. A month later, Starbucks workers are back on defense.

Workers are tired of union busting

CNN reports that upwards of 2,000 Starbucks employees across 112 stores have rallied together for a one-day strike today (Thursday, November 17) with support from Workers United. "This is to show them we're not playing around," pro-union worker Tyler Keeling told the outlet. "We're done with their anti-union retaliation and them walking away from bargaining." 

The strike coincides with the coffee company's annual Red Cup Day, which bestows reusable red cups to customers who order certain rewards-friendly drinks, per Parade. Keeling told CNN that the scheduled jam is no coincidence. Workers are describing the strike as a "Red Cup Rebellion," hoping to "call attention to anti-union activities" on a day that sees heavier-than-usual traffic and cash flow at the chain, per CNN.

Democracy Now reports that the National Labor Relations Board has filed for a nationwide cease and desist order to prevent Starbucks from firing more pro-union employees. The outlet says the chain has recriminated against "at least 150" pro-union workers with illegal firings.