'We are Starbucks': workers strike nationwide ahead of shareholder meeting
Starbucks (AFP)

Amid an ongoing unionization wave, Starbucks workers across the United States are holding a national day of action on Wednesday to demand a living wage, consistent scheduling, safe working conditions, and the right to organize free from fear and intimidation.

Baristas plan to strike at more than 100 of the coffee giant's shops from coast to coast, including at cafes in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Memphis, and other cities. In Seattle, where Starbucks was founded and is headquartered, a major protest is planned—one day before shareholders vote on an assessment of workers' rights at the corporation's annual meeting.

At 12:00 pm PT, workers will march outside Starbucks' headquarters, declaring that the company's illegal union-busting won't stop their fight for higher wages, better benefits, and democratic workplaces.

Since December 2021, when baristas in Buffalo made history by forming the first unionized Starbucks in the U.S., more than 7,500 workers at over 280 of the coffee chain's locations nationwide have voted to unionize. Organizers have won more than 80% of their campaigns despite the company's unlawful intimidation and retaliation tactics.

According to Starbucks Workers United:

In this same time period, the NLRB's [National Labor Relations Board] regional offices have issued more than 80 official complaints against Starbucks, prosecuting the company for over 1,400 specific alleged violations of federal labor law, including accusations that former CEO Howard Schultz personally threatened a worker who expressed support for organizing.

To date, NLRB administrative law judges have issued nine decisions, eight of which collectively found that the company has committed 130 violations, including illegally monitoring and firing organizers, calling the police on workers, and outright closing a store that recently attempted to organize.

Due to Starbucks' refusal to bargain in good faith, none of the locations that voted to unionize have reached a contract agreement.

With his unlawful crackdown on organizing coming under increased scrutiny, Schultz moved up his resignation from April 1 to March 20. Schultz is still scheduled to testify at next Wednesday's hearing convened by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He only agreed to do so under threat of subpoena.

Sarah Pappin, a Seattle Starbucks worker and member of Starbucks Workers United, said Wednesday in a statement: "Baristas like me are the ones who keep our stores running. We remember our customers' regular orders, make the lattes, clean up spills, and are often the bright spot of our customers' days. We are the heart and soul of Starbucks."

"Instead of celebrating the law-breaking former CEO hell-bent on silencing us, Starbucks should respect our right to organize and meet us at the bargaining table," said Pappin. "We are Starbucks, and we deserve better."

Starbucks Workers United said that "Wednesday's day of action will also serve to welcome the company's new chief executive, Laxman Narasimhan, and send him a message that the transition in the C-suite provides an opportunity for the company to stop its unprecedented campaign of union-busting and instead partner with its workers and our union to build a company that truly lives up to its stated progressive values."

Earlier this month, Starbucks Workers United sent a letter to shareholders urging them to vote for a third-party evaluation of Starbucks' purported commitment to affirming workers' rights, arguing that the corporation's anti-union actions are inconsistent with its International Labor Organization commitments.

According to the union, "Two proxy advisory firms, International Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis, have already recommended Starbucks shareholders vote in favor of the proposal from Trillium Asset Management, the New York City Pension Funds, and other investors."