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Starbucks workers up the ante with National Day of Action

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Photo courtesy of SBWU
Photo courtesy of SBWU

Workers also join Homegrown sandwich workers on the picket line

Starbucks workers upped the ante in their struggle with the giant coffee corporation with a National Day of Action on September 14. The plan was to draw Starbucks customers and community supporters into the fight with customer-led informational picketing and flyering at many Starbucks locations.

"Starbucks is doing everything in its power to ignore its unionized workers, but it has to listen to its customers," said Daisy Pitkin, field director of the unionization drive. "We're calling on customers to join the fight and stand with Starbucks workers on September 14." Pitkin said thousands of customers and allies would "join us at stores all across the country.

"Our theory is that if every customer who supports unionized Starbucks workers talks to 10 or 20 other customers, then we are building a powerful consumer network that Starbucks can't ignore."

According to post-action reports by Starbucks Workers United (SBUW), the workers' union, the plan succeeded brilliantly — with 1,700 customers at 592 stores and 11 colleges campuses in 47 states taking part.

"Thank you all so much for joining the fight," SBWU tweeted on September 15. "This is about more than just Starbucks — we're fighting for fair workplaces together! Yesterday may have been our biggest day of action yet... but we're just getting started. Stay tuned!"

Seattle Center Starbucks — Photo courtesy of SBWU Seattle  

Some 331 Starbucks locations, with over 8,000 workers have unionized, but SBWU charges that the company is dragging its feet in contract negotiations. In many places, SBWU negotiating teams arrive for bargaining sessions, only to find that the employer's team will walk out only minutes into the session and never reappear.

In addition, the union charges that Starbucks continues to retaliate against union organizers and has even closed unionized stores — the popular Broadway and Denny store on Capitol Hill being one.

According to SBWU, more stores join the union everyday — so many that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is having trouble keeping up with the demand for NLRB-supervised union elections.

The newest union store in Seattle is the Seattle Center Starbucks, which voted 17-0 to unionize on September 15, the day after the National Day of Action.

Photo courtesy of SBWU Seattle  

Seattle Starbucks workers also joined picket lines supporting Homegrown Sandwich workers, who have also unionized, organized by UNITE HERE Local 8, but are still fighting for a fair contract.

Some 150 workers shut down six Homegrown locations in the greater Seattle area starting on September 14. According to their union, the workers are demanding job security and affordable health care plans.

"I'm fighting for a contract that will allow me to stay in the company long-term, and I need to know that I can keep this job if the company is sold," said Emily Minkus, who works at Homegrown's Queen Anne location.

Employers like Starbucks and Homegrown often try to deunionize their stores by drawing out contract negotiations in hopes that workers will get frustrated and look for other jobs, allowing the company to replace them with antiunion substitutes.