Starbucks Workers Plan Walkout During Red Cup Giveaway Day

Thousands of unionized Starbucks workers plan to walk off the job on Thursday to press their demands for contract negotiations and spotlight their complaints over staffing and scheduling issues.

The stoppage coincides with an annual Starbucks promotion, Red Cup Day, in which customers receive bright-red reusable cups if they order a holiday-themed beverage, like a Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte.

The union representing the striking workers, Starbucks Workers United, has said events like Red Cup Day force employees to handle more orders than usual but without sufficient staffing.

Unionized workers say the company has refused to bargain over staffing and scheduling issues that are particularly acute on such days, and the union filed an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board over the issue this year.

The union represents more than 9,000 Starbucks workers at more than 300 stores across the country. Employees at some unionized stores started the walkout on Wednesday with the aim of surprising the company, which was aware of Thursday’s planned walkout.

Starbucks says the union is the side that has prevented bargaining sessions by insisting on conducting the meetings online, with rank-and-file members observing, rather than having negotiating teams sit down in person.

“We hope that Workers United’s priorities will shift to include the shared success of our partners and negotiating contracts for those they represent,” Andrew Trull, a company spokesman, said in a statement.

The union is calling on the company to shut down mobile orders on promotional days, which it says have gotten more frequent.

Daisy Federspiel-Baier, a shift supervisor at a Starbucks in Seattle, said her store received more than 200 orders in a half-hour during an October promotion in which customers could get 50 percent off any drink. The store was so overwhelmed that some drinks and food went to waste and orders were halted, Ms. Federspiel-Baier said.

“I watched as baristas verged on a state of mental breakdown, being verbally berated by customers and feeling pressure from bosses to keep performing when it was unreasonable to do so,” she said.

Thursday’s walkout is the latest development in a battle between the company and organized labor since employees at a store in Buffalo voted to form a union in 2021.

In September, a National Labor Relations Board judge ruled that Starbucks had violated federal law by limiting raises and benefit improvements to nonunionized workers. Another administrative judge ruled in March that Starbucks had repeatedly violated federal labor laws by illegally tampering with union organizing and firing employees who sought to unionize.

In June, unionized workers declared a weeklong strike at more than 150 stores, protesting what they said was the company’s ban of Pride Month apparel and treatment of L.G.B.T.Q. workers — an assertion that management denied. Starbucks said the protest had temporarily closed 21 stores.

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