Dozens of Madison Starbucks employees at two Madison Starbucks locations walked out of work Thursday and gathered outside stores to protest what they described as unfair treatment. They joined workers at over 200 Starbucks outlets across the country in the walkout, according to Evan McKenzie, a Starbucks barista and intern with the union Starbucks Workers United.
Workers outside the Madison State Street Starbucks on Thursday held up signs that declared “No Contract, No Cup” and “Madison is a union town. State is a union store.”
The union members timed their walkout to coincide with “Red Cup Day,” an annual holiday season Starbucks promotional event that the union says is the coffee giant’s biggest day for sales. Workers said the “Red Cup Rebellion” was over complaints about staffing and scheduling and the company’s refusal to bargain with employees.
Red Cup Day is one of the hardest days for employees, because the stores become busy, customers have to wait longer, not everyone gets the deals they want— and customers take their anger out on the employees, said McKenzie.
This strike comes a year after the Capitol Square employees went on strike, charging that the company was not bargaining with the union. McKenzie said there has still been no progress and that Starbucks still refuses to meet with the union.
Workers on strike Thursday emphasized continued understaffing, especially on high-traffic days like Red Cup Day.
Joanna Weir, who has worked at the Madison Capitol Square location for two years, said understaffing has always been an issue with Starbucks. In the past, however, the company provided more staff on promotional days to help with the crowds, Weir said, but this year left employees to deal with the rush.
At the Madison marathon on Sunday, Weir said, the line to get drinks was out the door within 10 minutes of the store opening, but there were only three employees working that shift.
When Forrest Rivers started working at Madison, they expected a positive and welcoming work environment, and opportunities to build a queer community.
“Instead I was met with an insanely understaffed work environment and consistent and forceful union busting,” Rivers said.
Rivers also left work crying after time off for gender-affirming surgery because the store was again understaffed and they felt immediately exhausted and overworked. Rivers decided to leave Starbucks after all of this.
“I don’t feel like I’m being adequately supported in my work environment,” Rivers said.
Andrew Trull, Starbucks senior manager of corporate communications, said Starbucks is willing to meet with certified unions that represent “partners,” the term Starbucks uses for employees.
“We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve seen towards first contracts at stores where union representatives have approached bargaining with professionalism and an actual interest in discussing partner priorities with our bargaining committees,” Trull said in a statement.
He charged that the Madison Starbucks union members have not engaged in “productive and professional” bargaining. Trull said union bargainers at the Capitol Square location would not bargain without preconditions and that a union representative from the State Street location would not confirm a bargaining session.
Weir called Trull’s statement “absolutely not true.” Union members have repeatedly scheduled bargaining meetings with Starbucks, she said, but company representatives have canceled them.
McKenzie said that a Starbucks district manager tried in the last few days to “scab” the Capitol Square store, attempting to recruit workers who would defy the union by continuing to work during a strike so the location could stay open. McKenzie said this made him angry, because it isn’t part of the manager’s job to take anti-union actions. But he said it didn’t work.
“Do you see either union store open today?” McKenzie said. “No, because we shut it down.”
He emphasized the strong community support that Starbucks has had in Madison. “Madison is a union town,” McKenzie said. “You’re messing with the wrong workers. We know about perseverance. We know about relying on each other, about relying on this community because we do it every single day.”
Weir said that workers hope Starbucks will take them seriously after the strike.
“It is time to sit down at the table and start listening to some of our demands,” Weir said. “Better wages and not withholding tips and or raises from union stores. More staffing and better working conditions overall.”
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originally published at https%3A%2F%2Fwisconsinexaminer.com%2F2023%2F11%2F17%2Fmadison-starbucks-workers-walk-out-of-work-on-the-busiest-day-of-the-year%2F by Abigail Leavins