November 30, 2023

Starbucks will play Santa Claus on Red Cup Day tomorrow (Nov. 16), doling out free limited edition reusable red cups to customers as a promotional event to kick off the holiday season. But amid the promotion, a massive strike is also brewing.

The union representing US Starbucks workers has announced thousands of members will walk out on Red Cup Day, an annual promotion hosted on the third Thursday of November each year.

“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,” Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) wrote on its website. In what it’s termed the “Red Cup Rebellion,” the union is urging Starbucks baristas, shift supervisors, and even customers to walk out with them in its “biggest strike yet.”

Starbucks, which has long been accused of union-busting tactics, is aware that Workers United has publicized a “day of action at a small subset of our US stores this week,”a company spokesperson told Bloomberg this week. Starbucks hopes “priorities will shift to include the shared success of our partners and working to negotiate union contracts for those they represent,” the statement said.

Starbucks and its employees, by the digits

2,000: Employees that waged a single-day strike on Red Cup Day last year. Despite the walkout, it was reportedly the coffee chain’s highest single sales day ever. However, many more unions have formed since

112: Starbucks locations impacted by Red Cup Day strikes last year

200+: Starbucks locations planned for Red Cup Day strikes this year

9,000: Workers at 360+ Starbucks stores represented by Workers United

3%: Minimum incremental pay increase US hourly workers will see beginning January 1, Starbucks announced on Nov. 6. All partners at US company-owned stores, including more than 75 union-represented stores, will receive the increase.

633: Open or settled unfair labor practice charges that have been docketed against Starbucks by US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional offices.

18,000: Starbucks stores all over North America “transformed on the same night with stacks of holiday cups wrapped like gifts, colorful bags of Christmas Blend lining the shelves and bright red menu boards with the season’s festive beverages” for the Red Cup Day promotion, as per the company

Quotable: Protesting promotion days without adequate staffing

“Starbucks is creating unnecessarily stressful working conditions by scheduling promotion after promotion without increasing staffing. Starbucks has made it clear that they won’t listen to workers, so we’re advocating for ourselves by going on strike.”

Neha Cremin, a Starbucks worker in Oklahoma City, to CBS MoneyWatch.

Place of interest: US universities

In August, Cornell University announced it would terminate its partnership with Starbucks, which is set to expire in June 2025. Inspired by the Ithaca, New York-based Ivy League college, several other student bodies—including Georgetown, Stanford, UCLA, Boston University, and more—have asked their colleges to cut ties with the company, including booting them off campuses and divesting from the stock.

“Removing Starbucks from our campus and divesting from the corporation would be an incredible show of solidarity with Starbucks Workers United and employees fighting for the right to form a union at Starbucks, as many of the leaders in this movement are either students themselves or recent graduates,” reads a petition addressed to Georgetown President John DeGioia and signed by more than 300 university students, staff, faculty and campus organizations. Georgetown University owns nearly 50,000 shares of Starbucks, valued at nearly $5 million.

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