Starbucks Workers Are Striking Nationwide

Workers across the country claim the company is retaliating against union activity.
Starbucks Workers Are Striking Nationwide
On the Clock is Motherboard's reporting on the organized labor movement, gig work, automation, and the future of work.

All across the country, Starbucks workers are striking. In the past week, workers at stores in metro areas like Seattle, Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, as well as Augusta and Atlanta in Georgia have all gone on strike because of poor working conditions and the company’s open hostility to the ongoing Starbucks Workers United union drive underway at locations nationwide.

Workers at the first Starbucks to unionize in Atlanta picketed their store instead of working on Sunday to protest the company's refusal to improve working conditions. "There's a bittersweet aspect," one organizer told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Because while I'm proud of us for being so strong and coming out and striking and closing the store down for the day, it's still sad that we are at this point."


On Monday, a Starbucks near Boston University's campus that voted to unionize in June tweeted a letter to management, saying workers would strike until further notice because working conditions had continued to decay. The letter lays out a host of unfair labor practices adopted after the union vote including "threats, overly restrictive policies, denials of benefits, changes in operations,” along with "illegal threats of discipline or termination of employees" from management.

Workers picketed in front of three stores in Pittsburgh last week after Starbucks fired two union workers, which the union alleges was retaliation for union activity. “Starbucks’ decision to terminate two leading members of our union organizing committee in the heart of Pittsburgh, an historic center of our country’s labor movement, is a disgusting failed attempt to scare pro-union partners out of stores," the two employees wrote in a press statement about their firings. "Starbucks is trying to intimidate partners across the Country by applying undue pressure to our paychecks and we cannot—and will not—sit idly by while our rights are violated. Our city is behind us and so is history.”


Employees at a Starbucks store in the Detroit metro area—the first to unionize in Michigan—went on strike Tuesday over retaliation from management that imposed "impossible conditions" in response to unionizing. In Augusta, Georgia, workers also went on strike Tuesday morning after Starbucks management fired a worker key to unionizing the store in April and then walked out on a meeting with workers listing demands that included reinstating the union worker, according to striking workers.

On Sunday, workers at a Seattle store launched a strike in response to the company announcing it will close three stores, including two that have already unionized and one that was slated to vote in August. A week earlier in Independence, Missouri, Starbucks workers went on strike because they claim the company is deploying union-busting tactics such as withholding healthcare among union negotiations.

In June, the company said it would reimburse abortion travel expenses for employees enrolled in its healthcare plan if there were no legal providers in the worker's state or within a 100 mile radius. Workers at the Independence store, however, claim that it shifted and said it couldn’t “make promises of guarantees about any benefits” for unionized stores during bargaining. 

As the company promises to close 16 stores by the end of the month, alludes to more closures to come, and continues to face allegations of union busting and retaliation against union workers, it’s hard to see when the strikes will end.

Starbucks did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.