On Wednesday, March 22nd, workers at over 100 company-owned Starbucks locations across the United States went on strike. The nationwide protest took place just one day before the company’s annual shareholders meeting, where there will be a “vote on an assessment of worker’s rights.”
As reported by Newsweek, the protests were created by Starbucks Workers United, the banner under which workers at US Starbucks locations seek collective bargaining. The organization is “striking to demand an end to Starbucks’ illegal union-busting campaign,” per the Starbucks Workers United Twitter account. “While the company keeps a metaphorical ’empty chair’ for us in the boardroom, we’re demanding a real seat at the table!”
Spread across 27 states in total, the striking stores are also seeking “higher wages, better benefits, safe working conditions and the right to organize in unions without fear of retaliation and intimidation.” Newsweek notes that Starbucks Workers United have filed hundreds of unfair labor practice charges against the company, with the National Labor Relations Board finding in favor of SBWU in over 80 of those instances.
To counter, Starbucks has filed over 100 Unfair Labor Practice charges against the union, alleging that they refuse to “take a real seat at the negotiating table” and bargain in good faith. “Rather than publicizing rallies and protests, we encourage Workers United to live up to their obligations by responding to our proposed sessions and meeting us in-person to move the good faith bargaining process forward,” a spokesperson for the company tells Newsweek.
The protest coincides with Laxman Narasimhan taking over the role of CEO from three-time company leader Howard Schultz—two weeks earlier than expected—who, per CNN, states that he will be picking up a barista shift once a month “To keep us close to the culture and our customers, as well as to our challenges and opportunities.”
To date, nearly 280 company-owned Starbucks locations in the United States have voted in favor of unionizing.