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Union participates in ‘Red Cup Rebellion’ at Seattle Starbucks

Nov 17, 2022, 9:12 AM | Updated: 1:46 pm
Starbucks red cup protest...
The Starbucks at Broadway and Denny, the site of a 'Red Cup Rebellion' protest on Nov. 17, is shutting down in December due to safety concerns. (Sam Campbell/KIRO Newsradio)
(Sam Campbell/KIRO Newsradio)

Starbucks workers at more than 100 locations across the country went on a one-day strike Thursday, protesting what they claim are overworked, understaffed, and underpaid working conditions.

The strike fell on the day of the launch of Starbuck’s holiday line – the same day when the company hands out its recognizable red holiday cups. Union organizers subsequently labeled their coordinated strike the “Red Cup Rebellion.”

Three stores in Seattle took part, including the location at Broadway and Denny Way in Capitol Hill. Striking workers waved picket signs and doled out their own red union-decorated cups to would-be customers.

Rachel Ybarra works at Starbucks and helped organize the store on Denny. At the strike on Thursday, she told KIRO Newsradio the company’s celebrated Red Cup Day is regularly a “nightmare” to Starbucks employees, when surges of customers are met with woeful understaffing.

“They refuse to staff our stores properly,” said a union representative. “Now, with all these stores unionized, they are really buckling down and not giving us the staff we need.”

Their union, Starbucks Workers United, tells KIRO Newsradio in an email that the decision to hold the strike comes from “a refusal to bargain with us in good faith.”

The spokesperson accused Starbucks of delaying negotiations. “They have now walked out of over 50 bargaining sessions simply because some workers are joining over zoom for accessibility.”

Starbucks disputes the accuracy of the claim, saying company representatives didn’t agree to “conduct these meetings in a virtual or hybrid format” and claiming Starbucks couldn’t see who was on the other end of the Zoom calls.

Starbucks Workers United’s full response is below:

“This is a one-day ULP strike against the company’s refusal to bargain with us in good faith.

 “The simple truth is that Starbucks is lying. The company has been waging an unprecedented and aggressive union-busting campaign since we started organizing in August of 2021, including firing over 150 union leaders across the country, shuttering union stores, and threatening & harassing union leaders. The National Labor Relations Board is prosecuting Starbucks for over 900 violations of federal labor law.

 “For months now Starbucks has been delaying negotiations. They have now walked out of over 50 bargaining sessions simply because some workers are joining over zoom for accessibility.”

Starbucks’ full emailed statement is below:

Each year, our partners and our customers look forward to Red Cup Day as an opportunity to celebrate the holiday season while creating moments of joy with one another over handcrafted coffee.

We are aware that union demonstrations are scheduled at a small number of our U.S. company-owned stores. In those locations where partners choose to participate, we respect their right to engage in lawful protest activity – though our focus has been, and continues to be, on uplifting the Starbucks experience for our partners and customers.

 We remain committed to all partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone. In those stores where partners have elected union-representation, we have been willing and continue to urge the union to meet us at the bargaining table to move the process forward in good faith.

 “At each session Workers United representatives have attempted to broadcast proceedings to others via Zoom—and on occasion, excerpts have been shared broadly by individuals on social media. Except in limited circumstances, Starbucks has not been given visibility as to who was on these calls.

 “Unfortunately, the parties never agreed to conduct these sessions in a virtual or hybrid format. We believe that bargaining in this format will undermine important and personal conversations related to the unique needs of our partners at each store.

 “Despite these union tactics, members of Starbucks bargaining committees have continued to show up in-person for each scheduled session—and have remained on-site in caucus rooms for the duration of scheduled sessions, ready and willing to begin discussions in alignment with the NRLB process.”

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Union participates in ‘Red Cup Rebellion’ at Seattle Starbucks