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July 23, 2023

Starbucks workers, labor leaders rally in effort to remove coffee kiosk from Dilworth Park

Five Philly cafes went began striking Sunday, picketing outside of the 10th and Market location to protest the company's alleged union-busting campaign

Starbucks baristas, labor leaders and community members rallied outside of City Hall on Saturday as part of the coffee shop union's efforts to shut down the Starbucks kiosk in Dilworth Park. 

Members of Starbucks Workers United previously called on the city to shutter the kiosk-style coffee shop, which opened in 2019, due to ongoing investigations into the company's alleged union-busting in Philadelphia and across the country. Workers have suggested that the city replace Starbucks in Dilworth Park with a local coffee shop in order to keep Starbucks from profiting from the kiosk. On Sunday, five Philly locations went on strike to protest the company's alleged union-busting campaign. 

During the rally, workers and labor allies called on City Council to support the cafe's closure after it expressed strong support for the unionization effort in a resolution passed last summer. At the time, just four Starbucks locations in Philly had joined the union. As of July, eight of the city's cafes have joined to fight for guaranteed hours, living wages and consistent scheduling. 

Workers have alleged that Starbucks has violated Philly's Fair Work Week ordinance, which provides predictable scheduling to service, hospitality and retail workers in the city. Employers covered under the ordinance include any establishments that employ 250 or more workers and have more than 30 locations worldwide, like Starbucks, according to the Office of Benefits and Wage Compliance. 

"Fair Work Week laws in Philadelphia were such a revolutionary law to be passed here in the city to give rights to workers to have regular schedules and compensation for unexpected hour changes," said Lydia Fernandez, a worker at the 20th and Market location. "The fact that Starbucks has been a top violator of that law, that there is an active investigation against them with the city's Department of Labor, is a big deal. It's one of the biggest reasons why we're launching this petition." 

Starbucks does not own the Dilworth Park kiosk, said Center City District spokesperson JoAnn Loviglio. The site incorporates the brand through a licensing agreement made with Pennsport's Brulee Catering, which operates the site. Its employees earn money from the catering business, not Starbucks. It is also not one of the Philly locations accused of violating the Fair Work Week ordinance or engaging in union-busting tactics. 

The rally comes one week after workers at the Starbucks at the Penn Medicine Perelman Center addressed their district manager over alleged wage theft and Fair Work Week violations, union officials said in a press release. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Labor said that the Office of Worker Protections has received complaints against Starbucks, but declined to provide information regarding ongoing investigations. 

The Dilworth Park kiosk did not have a lot of public support when the plans were first revealed in 2019, and a petition opposing it garnered hundreds of signatures within 48 hours. The petition was launched by Streets Dept, a public art blog run by Conrad Benner, though Benner later published a joint statement with the Center City District in support of the kiosk before it opened later that year. 

Starbucks Workers United is touring the United States and visiting 13 cities to raise awareness of alleged union-busting practices and drum up support for ongoing organizing efforts. The unionization effort, which began in 2021, now encompasses more than 8,500 workers at 330 stores across 41 states. 

Starbucks Workers United has held two national strikes in the last year, including a three-day strike in December and a one-day strike on Red Cup Day. More than 1,000 workers at Starbucks locations across the country took part in each of the strikes as a protest over what they say is the company's refusal to bargain on a contract. It remains unclear how long the five Philly locations — which include 10th and Market, Penn Medicine, 20th and Market, Broad and Spring Garden and 9th and South — will be on strike. 

More than 446 unfair labor practice charges have been filed against Starbucks since the unionization effort began. 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 last year.