The year of the strike is ending with a bang. Starbucks Workers United has announced that workers at over 100 stores in the U.S. are embarking on a three-day strike starting today and ending December 18. The “Double Down Strike” will affect Starbucks locations in multiple states, including the flagship Seattle Roastery, which is where Starbucks CEO and noted union antagonist Howard Schultz regularly gets his coffee.
In a statement to Eater, Starbucks Workers United says “the ‘Double Down Strike’, a nationwide unfair labor practice (ULP) strike, is the longest collective action in the campaign’s history and is the latest escalation against Starbucks’ ruthless campaign of anti-union bullying.” This comes after a recent action on November 17, where over 1,000 Starbucks workers at more than 100 stores went on strike on Red Cup Day, Starbucks’s money-making “holiday” where it gives away collectible holiday cups.
Aside from not crossing the picket lines, SBWU has also asked customers to support their organizing efforts by not buying Starbucks Gift Cards this year, the union’s first request of customers that goes beyond not visiting a Starbucks store for a day. Not all 100 stores going on strike will be striking for the full three days, but workers will be rallying at striking locations across the country.
In a statement to Eater, Starbucks says, “It is unfortunate that Workers United continues to spread misleading claims while disrupting the Starbucks Experience that our partners and customers have come to love and expect. Despite these delay tactics, we remain focused on working together and engaging meaningfully and directly with the union to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone, and we urge Workers United to uphold their promises to partners by moving the bargaining process forward.”
The escalation comes as Starbucks continues to close unionized stores, SBWU notes, including the Broadway & Denny location in Seattle, the first Seattle location to organize. Starbucks cited issues like crime and public safety as the reason for the closure, but workers say it’s retaliation. “They’re doubling down on their union-busting, so we’re doubling down, too,” says Michelle Eisen, a barista and organizer recently named one of Bloomberg’s most influential people of 2022, in a statement. “We’re demanding fair staffing, an end to store closures, and that Starbucks bargain with us in good faith.”
SBWU also says that Starbucks has continued to deny benefits, such as loan management benefits and new paid leave benefits, to unionized stores (Starbucks maintains it legally cannot offer new benefits to unionized stores without first negotiating over them). “The most recent [unfair labor practices] are the denial of credit card tipping to union stores, hours cuts and the closing of union stores,” Collin Pollitt, a barista and SBWU organizer in Oklahoma City told In These Times. SBWU says the National Labor Relations Board has also filed over 45 complaints against Starbucks, encompassing 900 alleged violations of federal labor law.
According to the company’s annual financial report, the union is affecting how it does things. SBWU claims Starbucks has repeatedly attempted to curb unionization by saying a union won’t result in higher wages. But the company writes in a 2021 SEC report “if a significant portion of our employees were to become unionized, our labor costs could increase and our business could be negatively affected by other requirements and expectations that could increase our costs, change our employee culture, decrease our flexibility and disrupt our business.” It’s also clear Starbucks understands that its ongoing stance against the union could affect its public image: “Further, our responses to any union organizing efforts could negatively impact how our brand is perceived and have adverse effects on our business, including on our financial results.”
You’d think that if the company’s report says union busting is bad for business, Starbucks would stop doing things like walking out of bargaining meetings and accusing the NLRB of collusion with the union. But a recent article in the New York Times attempted to analyze why CEO Howard Schultz has been so antagonistic. “At Starbucks, Mr. Schultz’s resistance to a union appears to be a matter of self-image, according to those who know him,” write Noam Scheiber and Julie Creswell. “He prefers to see himself as a generous boss, not a boss who is forced to treat employees generously.”
SBWU just passed the first anniversary of its first election victory, and workers are still in the middle of bargaining with the company over issues like fair pay, COVID benefits, guaranteed schedules, and Just Cause termination. The Double Down strike aims to draw attention to stagnation with negotiations, and bring Starbucks to the table to bargain in good faith. So this weekend, remember how easy it is not to cross a picket line. There’s always Dunkin’.