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Starbucks on the Ave joins national strike in ‘Red Cup Rebellion’

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Starbuck Strike

The signs posted on the Starbucks on The Ave, detailing the reasons for the employee strike on November 17.

On Nov. 17, the Starbucks located on the Ave went on strike in protest of unfair labor practices alongside over 100 stores nationwide. After the Ave location unionized in June, they have been one of many union stores that have experienced short staffing and a lack of good-faith bargaining from Starbucks.

Starbucks' anti-union campaign has been ruthless and cruel, and their crusade against struggling working-class people shows no signs of stopping,” Erin Bray, shift supervisor at the Ave’s Starbucks, said. “By bringing these issues to light, we also hope to unmask Starbucks in the eyes of the public. 

Baristas and supporters formed a picket line outside the closed store at 8 a.m. and remained there until noon when they relocated downtown to support striking workers outside the 5th Ave & Pike St. location. The third participating location in Seattle was the city’s first unionized location on Broadway & Denny Way in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. 

The day, deemed “Red Cup Day” by Starbucks, is one of the company’s busiest days as it marks the beginning of their holiday season and has historically drawn in massive crowds by offering customers free, limited edition red cups. Striking baristas and supervisors countered this with picket lines, signs, and their own union-made merchandise. 

The nationwide strike, known as the “Red Cup Rebellion” had been in motion for several months, with the specific date being an integral part of it.

“We knew that if we picked Red Cup Day, it would really hurt Starbucks’ profits,” shift supervisor, UW third-year, and strike captain Daisy Federspiel-Baier said. “If they're not going to meet us at the bargaining table, depriving them of their profits might be a way to get their attention.”

Baristas from the Ave location said customers were generally supportive of the closure as they explained their reasoning for the strike. Over at the 5th & Pike location, the store was reopened by management and dealt with foot traffic during the picket. Though some customers still opted to cross the picket line, the store was significantly quieter than it would have been on a typical Red Cup Day. Normally, the store would be out of cups by 9:30 a.m., but last Thursday, they remained stocked until they shut their doors at 2:30 p.m.

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“A big part of this, I believe, came from the protesting outside and how effective it was at getting customers to not cross the picket line,” the location’s shift supervisor Micah Lakes said. “Dozens and dozens of people saw what we were doing and decided to go somewhere else for the day.”

Starbucks unions have had some success in bettering their work environment. After years of pushing for credit card tips, they were recently implemented in select stores, including the Ave location, following the union’s formation.

Through the union, Starbucks workers are aiming to renegotiate their contracts in order to gain better working conditions. Among their list of priorities is better pay, better benefits for tenured employees, mental health benefits, different health care clauses, different dress codes, and control of mobile orders.

Those wishing to support their local union Starbucks can pledge to act in solidarity with Starbucks workers and receive information about upcoming events. In addition, one can donate directly to their relief fund, which helps reimburse Starbucks workers in the Pacific Northwest for wages lost due to collective action.

Reach writer Caroline Carr at Twitter: @carolinejcarr

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