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December 16, 2022

Philly Starbucks workers go on three-day strike to protest coffee roaster's alleged union-busting

The work stoppage, which runs from Dec. 16-18 at more than 100 stores nationwide, is the longest collective action in the campaign's history

Workers at three Starbucks locations in Philadelphia joined a three-day strike along with more than 1,000 baristas nationwide on Friday in order to protest the coffee chain's alleged union-busting practices.

Baristas at Starbucks locations at 34th and Walnut streets, 20th and Market streets and 3400 Civic Center Blvd. staged a walk out on Friday morning and plan to picket until Sunday, Dec. 18. They join workers at more than 100 cafes across the country in what they call a national "double down" strike meant to protest Starbucks' decision to shutter at least one of its unionized stores.

"We're striking again because if Starbucks is going to double down and refuse to bargain with us in good faith, then we're gonna show them we mean business," said Lydia Hernandez, a barista at the Starbucks on 20th and Market streets. "Short staffing, union busting, excluding us from the rollout of credit card tipping; we're facing all these problems as we enter a busy holiday season and we deserve better."

Organizers at Starbucks Workers United believe that the Seattle-based coffee roaster has escalated an "anti-union bullying campaign" by choosing to shutter its location at Broadway & Denny, the last remaining shop in Seattle's historic Capitol Hill neighborhood and the first in the company's hometown to unionize. 

Starbucks moved to close the store on Nov. 21, nearly one year after workers formed the first union in Buffalo, New York. Since then, more than 270 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize, representing roughly 3% of the coffee chain's 9,000 U.S. locations. 

The company announced in July that it would close 16 of its stores due to safety concerns, including a busy location that was previously located at 10th and Chestnut Streets near Jefferson University Hospital. Workers at six Seattle stores that were shuttered expressed disappointment in the fact that they were not given a say in their own working conditions before the stores were shut down. 

"Starbucks sent a clear message when they closed the Broadway and Denny store," said Michelle Eisen, a barista from the Elmwood location in Buffalo. "They're doubling down on their union-busting, so we're doubling down, too. We're demanding fair staffing, an end to store closures, and that Starbucks bargain with us in good faith."  

On the picket line, workers will be asking customers to support the unionization effort by not purchasing Starbucks gift cards this holiday season as part of Workers United's #NoContractNoGiftCards campaign. 

The strike, which is the longest collective action in the campaign's history, comes on the heels of the union's one-day strike on Nov. 17 for Red Cup Day, an annual promotion where Starbucks gives away reusable holiday cups. More than 1,000 workers at 110 stores across the country — including four locations in Philly — took part in the strike to protest what they say is the company's refusal to bargain on a contract. 

The company has started negotiations with at least 50 of the 270 unionized stores, but no agreements have been reached.

Starbucks has repeatedly denied the union's claims that company reps have walked out on contract negotiations or retaliated against union members. CEO Howard Schultz told NPR earlier this year that the company respects its workers' right to organize, but believes "the best future is created directly with partners and not a third party." 

Alex Riccio, an organizer with the Philadelphia Joint Board of Workers United, told PhillyVoice earlier this year that five Starbucks stores in Philadelphia were currently unionized, with another two pending elections. This means that at least two stores are not participating in the three-day strike. 

Tzvi Ortiz, one of the workers at the Starbucks on 34th and Walnut streets, said during the Red Cup Day strike that unionized workers hope to reach more of their coworkers throughout the city in the coming months, encouraging their peers to "ask for more" from the company, even though Starbucks does offer benefits and "decent pay for your average retail work in store." 

Workers have filed at least 446 unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks since the unionization effort began last year. The company has filed 47 complaints against workers, alleging that the union defied bargaining rules by recording sessions and posting them online, the Associated Press reported.