Starbucks workers strike on Red Cup Day

November 16, 2023

Members of Starbucks Workers United (SBWU), the coffee giant’s biggest union, were set to strike on Thursday, “Red Cup Day” at the company’s stores.

“Red Cup Day (November 16th) is Starbucks’s biggest sales event of the season —and also one of the most infamously hard, understaffed days for the baristas that work them,” SBWU wrote on its website.

Called the “Red Cup Rebellion,” the union has urged Starbucks baristas and shift supervisors as well as customers to walk out.

The union is touting Thursday’s walkout as its “biggest strike yet!”

Red Cup Day is an annual holiday season kick-off at Starbucks, when the coffeemaker gifts free, reusable red holiday-themed cups to every customer who orders a holiday beverage (while supplies last). It’s historically Starbucks’ highest sales day all year.

Last year on Red Cup Day, Starbucks workers at more than 100 stores in 25 states went on strike, followed by a second, three-day walkout in mid-December by more than 1,000 baristas at 100 stores.

Currently, more than 75 Starbucks stores are union-represented, even though Starbucks, which is comprised of some 9,000 company-run stores across the U.S., opposes the efforts to unionize. The coffee giant says its company functions better when it works directly with employees. However, Starbucks has also said that it respects its employees’ lawful right to protest. 

Yet Alexis Rizzo, the employee responsible for sparking the Starbucks Workers United union campaign, was fired in April, after working as a shift supervisor for seven years. Starbucks told CNBC that Rizzo had been late on four occasions, missing more than four hours of work.

Just days before Rizzo’s firing, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had testified before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee about union busting. His testimony came as judges have found that the company had broken federal labor law some 130 times. 

Earlier this month, Starbucks announced that U.S. hourly workers would see “at least a 3% increase” and eligible tenured workers would receive “differentiated pay.”

PHOTO: Starbucks workers rally in Seattle, April 2022

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