- Thousands of Starbucks workers are striking on “Red Cup Day,” one of the company’s most profitable days of the year.
- The strike, organized by Starbucks Workers United, aims to address understaffing, demand better pay and benefits, and call for protections against harassment and bigotry.
- This strike comes less than two weeks after Starbucks announced a 3% hourly pay raise starting next year.
Thousands of Starbucks workers are walking out of hundreds of locations on Thursday to protest working conditions and demand better benefits. The strike is taking place on one of the company’s most profitable days of the year, “Red Cup Day,” when Starbucks releases its collectible red holiday cups.
The strike was planned by Starbucks Workers United, representing around 9,000 employees at 360 stores. Workers are raising concerns about understaffing, which particularly affects employees on days like November 16. On Red Cup Day, customers can receive a free, reusable cup by ordering a holiday drink at participating Starbucks locations.
Titled the “Red Cup Rebellion,” the workers’ demands include a base pay of $20 per hour for all baristas and $25.40 for shift supervisors, a commitment to annual raises of 5%, and cost-of-living adjustments. Workers are also asking for protections such as a “commitment to racial justice, including protections against racial harassment and bigotry from customers, co-workers, and managers,” and a commitment to zero tolerance of sexual harassment.
The strike is happening less than two weeks after Starbucks announced it would raise the hourly pay by at least 3% at the start of next year. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board accused Starbucks of intimidating workers trying to unionize by closing down stores. Starbucks has repeatedly denied engaging in any retaliatory activity when specific employees raised complaints.
“When we secure Fair Election Principles as part of our contract with Starbucks, the company will be held to an ethical code of conduct designed to safeguard the organizing process. This will allow partners at not-yet-union stores across the country to join our union quickly and freely, without reprisals,” the November proposal reads.
Last year, the union held a similar walkout on Red Cup Day, calling out the company for alleged union-busting actions. Thousands of employees participated in a single-day strike, affecting more than 100 Starbucks locations and marking the union’s largest coordinated effort since forming in 2021. Despite the record number of walkouts, Red Cup Day was still the biggest sales event of last year.
Amid workers’ pleas for fair wages, Starbucks saw record-breaking sales revenue in the fourth quarter of the 2022 fiscal year, bringing in $1.1 billion in profits. The company’s profits continued to grow in the fourth quarter of FY23, reaching $1.6 billion.
The “Red Cup Rebellion” exposes the hypocrisy of a supposedly progressive company like Starbucks. Despite soaring profits, Starbucks fails to address the legitimate concerns of its workers, who demand fair wages, protection against harassment, and better working conditions. The recent 3% pay raise announcement is a mere token gesture, insufficient to meet the needs of employees. As customers enjoy their festive beverages, they must remember the plight of the overworked and underpaid baristas who make their holiday cheer possible. It’s time for Starbucks to prioritize its workers’ well-being over corporate greed.
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