Starbucks Workers Stage Nationwide Strike in Union Push

Starbucks Workers United says company stalls on union negotiations

Pins from The Starbucks Workers United hub

Libby March - Getty Images

More than 1,000 Starbucks workers at 125 U.S. stores from Times Square to Disneyland walked off the job on Thursday in a push for unionization they dubbed a "Red Cup Rebellion" to mark the day the coffee behemoth hands out reusable scarlet cups emblazoned with the company's logo.

Baristas and members of Starbucks Workers United, which has tried to negotiate a contract since forming last year in Buffalo, carried signs reading slogans such as "No Contract, No Coffee " and "Don't Decaf Our Rights" as they formed picket lines outside stores. They handed out their own version of the souvenir cup, also red but splashed instead with an image of the group's logo on a Christmas ornament.

Key Takeaways

  • Starbuck workers at over 100 locations went on strike on Red Cup Day, one of the busiest days for the company
  • Starbucks employees are looking to unionize, and are struggling to negotiate with the company
  • Workers at many other large companies, such as Amazon, have struggled to create unions recently

“It’s frustrating that the company that hired us doesn’t want to work to find a happy medium," barista Jose Serrano told the Washington Post.

The first nationwide strike at Starbucks is the latest attempt by workers to band together and leverage their bargaining power after the pandemic disrupted retailers worldwide. Union election petitions rose 58% in the six months from Oct. 1 of last year through June from the same period a year earlier, according to a study from the National Labor Relations Board.

Some stores, including a Trader Joe’s wine outlet in New York and a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Maine, shuttered shortly after workers broached unionization attempts. Similar efforts have been underway at Amazon, although workers at a warehouse outside Albany, New York, voted to reject one in October.

Starbucks has responded to Workers United’s demands by saying that some of the group's conditions for bargaining were non-negotiable, such as asking for group members to sit in on the meetings via Zoom.

“We’ve come to the table prepared to bargain in good faith only to be met with Workers United representatives who chose to insist on broadcasting the sessions to unknown individuals not in the room and, in at least one instance, posted a recording of the session online,” Starbucks said in a statement.

Starbucks Workers United said it wants to provide safer work environments for its members and deal with understaffing and overworking.

Some specific requests from the group include stopping harassment from managers, allowing employees to defend themselves against aggressive customers, letting workers pick up shifts at other non-union locations and formalizing employees' roles so that they can't be asked to do additional work.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. The Washington Post. "Starbucks workers plan strike on ‘Red Cup Day’ over stalled labor talks."

  2. National Labor Relations Board. "First Three Quarters' Union Election Petitions Up 58%, Exceeding All FY21 Petitions Filed."

  3. CNBC. "Here’s how a recession could hurt – or help – unions at big companies like Starbucks and Amazon."

  4. The Financial Times. "Amazon union suffers huge defeat in New York warehouse campaign."

  5. One. Starbucks. "Latest in our ongoing exchange with Workers United President Lynne Fox."

  6. Starbucks Workers United. "What Are We Fighting For?"

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.