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Starbucks workers turn company's "Investors Day" into Union Day

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Photo courtesy of Jonathan Rosenblum
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Rosenblum

Starbucks workers turned the company's annual Investors Day into a show of strength and community support for their union with a rally and picket at Starbucks corporate headquarters on September 13.

Photo courtesy of MLK Labor  

Every year, Starbucks invites stockholders, vendors, contractors, and local businesspeople — but, significantly, never employees — to Investors Day to hear the company's plans for the coming year.

This year, the company was touting its "Reinvention Plan," CEO Howard Schultz's response to the wave of unionization that has swept the company in the last year. Starbucks Workers United (SBWU), the union that represents the company's workers, responded with a rally and picket line of hundreds of Starbucks workers, members of other unions, and community supporters.

SBWU challenged Schultz's plan with a plan of its own. "Today at Investors Day, Starbucks is unveiling [its] 'Reinvention Plan' for the company. Since workers aren't invited to Investors Day, we wanted to share our own vision for the future of Starbucks," the union tweeted.

Photo courtesy of MLK Labor  

The union's agenda for the company includes:

  • providing adequate staffing and a living wage,
  • coming to the bargaining table in good faith,
  • stopping cutting workers' hours,
  • living up to the company's mission and principles, and
  • signing the Fair Election Principles (to guarantee a fair process for union elections).

    After an hour of picketing, the crowd gathered on the front steps of Starbucks headquarters for a rally. Speakers included local union leaders and Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda.

    Workers from Homegrown Sandwiches — in the midst of their own unionization campaign with UNITE HERE Local 8 — led the crowd in chants of "No justice, no sandwich, no justice, no coffee!"

    Starbucks workers who spoke at the rally were particularly scathing in their comments about company executives.

    "Inside, investors are deciding what to do with the money that we make for them. Tell Howard Schultz to stop union-busting and give us a contract!" one said.

    "She has the power to stop union busting but chooses not to," another said, referring to Starbucks board chair and Denver Broncos co-owner Melody Hopkins. "She claims to be self-made, but she made her way in and then closed the door behind her. If she is from the poor, she is engaged in class betrayal. She is leading the attack on low-wage workers. She should be eager to end wage inequality. The top 1% don't want to share. They are on the wrong side of history!"

    "Starbucks divests from the community and workers," a third worker said. "They have abandoned their principles. They claim to support LGBTQIA rights but shut down the store in the center of the Gay community. They claim to oppose racism but shut down a store in the Central [District], the traditional Black area of Seattle. It was a center of community activity."