Three Starbucks cafes in Seattle joined a three-day nationwide strike that began Friday, an escalation in the nascent union to win contracts for the newly organized stores.
Workers at stores in downtown Seattle and Madison Park joined those elsewhere who expect to hit 100 U.S. stores in the next three days.
The workers accuse Starbucks of closing union stores and refusing union demands for good faith negotiations and fair treatment. Workers at the Special Reserve Roastery, on Minor Avenue and Pike Street, will be pecking all weekend; those from the Madison Park store continue to peck Saturday; while those who work at the Fifth Avenue and Pike store plan to strike on Sunday.
The action will be the longest strike in the history of Starbucks Workers United, which celebrated its one-year anniversary last Friday. Last month, eight Washington stores, including the Fifth and Pike location, joined 110 U.S. stores for a one-day strike on Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company hands out reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink.
“We demand that Starbucks and (CEO) Howard Schultz immediately end union breakups, come to the negotiating table in good faith and protect the lives of the employees they care about most,” said Katie Merritt, shift manager supervisor in the Madison Park store.
Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull said the employees’ claims that Starbucks has targeted store closures with unions and refusal to negotiate in good faith are misleading. The work stoppages, he said, disrupt the “Starbucks experience.”
“Despite these delaying tactics, we remain focused on collaboration and meaningful and direct dialogue with the union to make Starbucks a company that works for all, and we urge Workers United to deliver on their promises to partners by moving the negotiation process forward help,” said Trull. said. Starbucks refers to employees as partners.
Merritt said employees at the Madison Park store have been denied the opportunity to negotiate or sign a contract. During one of the busiest seasons of the year, union members have their hours cut, and they are denied tipping on credit cards, which non-union stores have practiced, she said.
“While Madison Park Starbucks is known as Howard Schultz’s home store, we are like any other Starbucks,” said Merritt. “When Howard’s own convenience store baristas are treated so badly, it only speaks to the injustice that Starbucks partners across the country are experiencing.”
In Seattle, the union and Starbucks are awaiting a ruling from a National Labor Relations Board judge on whether the company’s decision to add benefits only to non-union stores violates federal labor law. Workers United are also protesting closures of union shops.
Six stores, including the city’s first union store on Broadway and East Denny Way, closed in Seattle. Starbucks claimed that unsolvable security issues threatened the well-being of customers and employees in those stores. But the union argued that the store closure was retaliation.
According to the NLRB, as of late last year, there are 261 of the 9,000 Starbucks-run stores in the US.
Starbucks Workers United has filed at least 446 unfair labor practices charges against the company, including allegations that Starbucks fires labor organizers and refuses to negotiate. Starbucks has filed 47 charges against the union, including allegations that Workers United broke bargaining rules by recording sessions and posting the recordings online. The union claims there was no recording.