(AP) — Starbucks workers at more than 100 U.S. stores say they will go on strike Thursday in what would be the largest industrial action since a campaign to unionize the company’s stores began late last year.
The release is planned to coincide with Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives out free reusable cups to customers who order the celebratory drink. Workers say it’s often one of the busiest days of the year. Starbucks declined to say how many red cups it plans to give away.
Workers say they are looking for better pay, more consistent schedules and higher staffing levels at busy stores. Starbucks opposes unionization, saying the company works best when it works directly with employees. The Seattle coffee giant has more than 9,000 company-owned stores in the US
Stores in 25 states plan to take part in the labor action, according to Starbucks Workers United, the group organizing the effort. Some workers planned to picket all day, while others planned shorter walkouts. The union said the goal was to close stores during the walkout.
Willa Montana, a shift manager at a Starbucks store in Brighton, Massachusetts, planned to go on strike because Starbucks did not begin bargaining with the store despite a successful union vote in April.
“If the company is not going to bargain in good faith, why should we come to work where we are understaffed, underpaid and overworked?” Montana said.
Others, including Michelle Eisen, a union organizer at one of the first stores to organize in Buffalo, N.Y., said workers were angry that Starbucks had promised higher pay and benefits to non-union stores. Starbucks says it follows the law and cannot raise wages at unionized stores without bargaining.
At least 257 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since late last year, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Fifty-seven stores held a vote where workers decided not to unionize.
Starbucks and the union contract negotiations began in 53 stores, with 13 additional sessions planned, Starbucks Workers United said. Agreements have not yet been reached.
The process was controversial. Earlier this week, the regional director of the NLRB filed a request in federal court to ban Starbucks, saying the company violated labor laws when it fired a union organizer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The regional director asked the court to order Starbucks to reinstate the employee and stop interfering with the union campaign nationwide.
It was the fourth time the NLRB had asked the federal court to intervene. In August a federal judge ruled that Starbucks had to rehire seven union organizers who were fired in Memphis, Tennessee. A similar case in Buffalo is still pending, while a federal judge has ruled against the NLRB in the case in Phoenix.
Meanwhile, Starbucks asked the NLRB temporarily suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores, citing allegations by a board official that regional officials improperly coordinated with union organizers. A decision on this case is pending.