Three Santa Cruz County Starbucks join national unfair labor practice strike

The crowd celebrates outside of the Mission Street Starbucks
Strikers outside the Ocean Street Starbucks on Thursday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Starbucks locations on Mission Street and Ocean Street and at 41st Avenue and Clares Street are part of a national one-day unfair labor practice strike Thursday that includes more than 100 Starbucks stores.

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Yet another strike has taken root in Santa Cruz County.

From 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, the unionizing Starbucks stores on Mission Street and Ocean Street in Santa Cruz and at 41st Avenue and Clares Street in Capitola — represented by the Starbucks Workers United union — are joining a national one-day unfair labor practice strike organizers are calling the Red Cup Rebellion.

The move comes on the same day as the company’s Red Cup Day, when Starbucks gives away a free reusable cup with qualifying purchases. Strikers will protest in front of their cafes, where they will instead distribute Starbucks Workers United-branded cups to customers.

According to a media release from the union, more than 100 Starbucks stores are participating in the strike. Workers are demanding that Starbucks fully staff all union stores and begin bargaining in good faith.

The release claims that these stores are consistently understaffed, workers are given unreliable schedules, and that Starbucks has responded poorly to the unionization efforts. Those efforts — beginning with a historic win in December 2021 by a store in Buffalo, New York — have led to more than 250 successful union votes throughout the United States.

Starbucks Workers United, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), represents nearly 7,000 workers nationally. Per the union, the National Labor Relations Board has filed 39 official complaints against Starbucks, covering more than 900 alleged federal labor law violations.

Hannah Wells (she/they), lead organizer at the 41st Avenue and Clares Street store, said that their Nov. 4 bargaining session went poorly.

“We met with the lawyer and a labor representative in the district, and the company representatives left after four minutes because they didn’t want to bargain with Zoom on,” she said. “They think we’re going to record, but it’s really just a way to include folks that aren’t available to bargain in person.”

Wells said that though the stores’ proposals are tailored to the specific needs of each cafe, the company response has been the same.

“They say that they’re hearing us, but the way that we’re doing it is incorrect or that they’re going to leave because of Zoom,” she said.

None of the stores has finalized agreements with the company, and negotiations are expected to be rather lengthy. As those talks continue to drag forward, Wells is working to keep her coworkers engaged, especially as her store experiences high turnover.

“We really have experienced that winning our union is the easy part. With each new partner that we get, we learn their struggles, working conditions and living situations,” she said. “We want to create that relationship because we want their best interests at the forefront. Without the workers, Starbucks wouldn’t have the economic prowess that they have now.”

a Starbucks spokesperson sent Lookout a statement late Thursday afternoon, saying that the company respects the workers right to protest.

“We remain committed to all partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” said the spokesperson. “In those stores where partners have elected union-representation, we have been willing and continue to urge the union to meet us at the bargaining table to move the process forward in good faith.”

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