Today is the first day of a three-day strike at dozens of Starbucks locations across the U.S. The strike comes as over 250 stores around the country have voted to unionize. However, Starbucks corporate is pushing back—the company opposes unionization efforts, saying that it wants the opportunity to work directly with its employees.
According to Starbucks Workers United, the labor group that has been pushing the unionization efforts forward, more than 1,000 baristas plan to walk out on December 16, 2022, refusing to work during a month that’s generally been one of Starbucks’ busiest. The workers plan to stay on strike throughout the remainder of the weekend. Union advocates are asking customers to support striking workers by refraining from making purchases at Starbucks during the strike.
This isn’t the first time Starbucks workers have gone on strike in recent months. This summer, workers at the Starbucks on Boston University’s campus went on strike for a whopping 64 days, which constituted the longest strike in the company’s history. On November 17, during an annual promotion in which Starbucks customers who order a holiday drink are given a free reusable cup, workers at 112 stores went on strike again. But the strike happening this weekend will be, if successful, the longest collective action of this unionization movement to date.
Starbucks employees are reportedly calling for unionization in the face of issues with management and understaffing. But as unionization efforts have ramped up, some pro-union workers have also taken issue with what one former Starbucks shift supervisor told NPR was a “scorched earth method of union busting,” including the company’s move to shut down the Seattle location that first voted to unionize.
Union-busting is illegal, but many corporations that face threats of unionization hire lawyers to help them effectively shut unions down without technically breaking the law. In fact, multiple sources have cited Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s long history of union-busting tactics. At the time of writing, Forbes valuated Shultz’s net worth at $3.7 billion, making him the 773rd richest person in the world.
Starbucks employees are not alone in their attempts to unionize; workers at organizations across the country are fighting for greater rights and protections amidst crippling levels of inflation. Workers at Amazon, Google, Condé Nast, Trader Joe’s and other companies are organizing, attempting to build forums in which they can more effectively advocate for themselves. A Gallup poll published in August 2022 found that 71% of Americans now approve of labor unions, a 64% jump from before the pandemic.
Those who want to support Starbucks workers’ unionization efforts can make coffee at home or buy from other, preferably local, coffee shops during the strike.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.