Nearly three years after the start of the Starbucks union campaign, frustrations are at a boiling point at unionized stores across the nation.
For the second year in a row, workers walked off the jobs in what they deemed the “Red Cup Rebellion,” a protest of a national “Red Cup” promotional event where the company hands out free reusable cups, and which makes up one of its busiest customer traffic days of the year.
In Manhattan, unionized Starbucks workers gathered a coalition of organized labor and local electeds at a Midtown store that they allege has been violating the city’s scheduling regulations.
At nine other downstate stores across the city and Nassau and Suffolk counties, the union organized the walkout in protest of the coffee giant’s refusal to bargain with baristas over staffing, scheduling and other issues. The coffee chain responded that it’s the union who has stalled negotiations, despite the fact that the National Labor Board has reported otherwise.
“Every worker dreads working Red Cup Day, everyone tries to get it off. It’s a very challenging day to work. And I think the main issue is that Starbucks does not often allow us extra staffing,” said Riley Fell, a former barista and Starbucks Workers United organizer.
At the 90 Park Avenue store where workers and electeds rallied, Starbucks workers filed complaints with the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs alleging that the company is in breach of the city’s Fair Workweek Law. The law deals with scheduling and mandates fast-food operators to provide their employees with work schedules at least two weeks in advance.
A Starbucks spokesperson said that store schedules are created three weeks in advance with the partners’ availability and preferences at the forefront and that stores are provided additional labor hours to augment staffing on promotional days.
Organizers with 32BJ, the influential local service workers union that has helped Starbucks Workers United with its campaign, said that the company failed to meet the threshold of advanced notice at the Midtown store or the 14 others where workers filed complaints on Thursday.
“I have to work later at my store, and I do not think we will have enough people. We’re going to be swarmed,” said Cris Mathieu, a barista at a financial district Starbucks where workers first filed a complaint about the company breaching scheduling requirements last February.
The strike has elicited support from the city and state elected including Councilmember Keith Powers, Publican Advocate Jumaane Williams and state Senate Labor Chair Jessica Ramos.
“Starbucks is out of compliance with the law and Starbucks needs to be held accountable. Every single Starbucks worker needs to have fair scheduling. Needs to have fair pay. Needs to have their union recognized,” Ramos said.
Unionized workers who spoke at the event lamented the lack of progress and cooperation from the coffee giant in recognizing the demands of the union.
“I am really exhausted,” said a worker who identified himself as Edwin. “We’ve been fighting for over a year and no changes have been made. We’ve been asking for better pay, better work environment and in general, just a better connection with the customers.”