Starbucks workers in Maryland joined the coast-to-coast “Red Cup Rebellion” on Thursday to demand the coffee giant bargain with baristas over staffing shortages and scheduling issues.
“I am striking today because of unlivable wages, inconsistent scheduling, taxed tips, and overworked employees all for a multibillion-dollar corporation who refuses to bargain on a single issue,” said Kavalyn Wilson, a barista at the Baltimore National Pike location in Ellicott City.
The Baltimore-area store joined with workers at more than 100 Starbucks locations nationwide to strike on Red Cup Day, one of the global coffee chain’s busiest days of the year.
According to organizers, union members filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board over Starbucks’ refusal to bargain around promotion days. The National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint in April alleging the company failed to bargain at 144 unionized stores.
Drink orders pile up promotion days like Red Cup Day, half-off ThursYays and Buy One Get One Free, with lines stretching out doors and long wait times for beverages and food. Customers also get disappointed when supplies for a given promotion run out and take their anger out on workers, organizers said.
As part of the strike, unionized workers demand Starbucks turn off mobile ordering on future promotion days as company executives are scheduling them with increased frequency, they say.
In an emailed statement, Starbucks acknowledged promotional days may make some locations busy but said retail leaders have the flexibility to adjust staffing schedules as needed for their specific store.
“Our store schedules are created three weeks in advance with our partners’ availability and preferences at the forefront and our stores are often provided additional labor hours to augment staffing in support of planned promotional days,” the company said.
Starbucks also pushed back on the protests but didn’t directly address union demands.
“We are aware that Workers United has publicized a day of action at a small subset of our U.S. stores today,” the company said. “We hope that Workers United’s priorities will shift to include the shared success of our partners and working to negotiate contracts for those they represent.”
In May last year, Starbucks raised wages at all U.S. stores to at least $15 an hour, but unionized workers still find promotional days too taxing, another barista says.
“In addition to them not being willing to engage with us in further contract negotiations for over two years now, this fall, they’ve had several promotions that are on all spur of the moment and understaffed,” Sam Petty said.
“So imagine having twice the customers and half the staff. We’re all drained, it’s not just our store,” he added.
Baltimore’s North Charles Street store joined Workers United about 1 1/2 years ago, making it the first location to organize in Maryland.
Ellicott City, or the Baltimore National Pike location off Route 40, followed suit shortly after becoming the coffee chain’s seventh location in Maryland to organize.
What is Red Cup Day?
Red Cup Day is one of Starbucks’ biggest promotional days of the year. As part of an effort to hype up its holiday drinks, the company hands out tens of thousands of free reusable cups.
The cups feature a “whimsical mod design,” the company says on its website, and change each year.
The promotion lasts for one day only, this year Nov. 16.