Starbucks Has Faced Union Strikes in 17 States Amid Wage Disputes

Image Credit: starbucks.com

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America’s largest coffee chain has a grande problem.

Starbucks locations have been impacted by at least 55 strikes in 17 US states, according to union organizer collective Starbucks Workers United, costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in business as it feuds with staff over pay.

How the Mocha Cookie Crumbles

Clearly, it’s not just the coffee that’s bitter at Starbucks. Since workers at a Buffalo location voted to form the chain’s first US union and press for more pay and benefits in December 2021, 187 other locations have followed suit, and a further 91 have open union drives, according to National Labor Relations Board data.

Starbucks did give out wage increases and enhanced benefits on August 1, including minimum hourly pay that’s nearly $17 – but not to unionized workers. The company argues that once a location unionizes, it can’t legally change benefits until a good faith collective bargaining effort has been made. Union organizers think otherwise, and that’s spawned a heated back and forth:

  • Starbucks Workers United estimates strikes have cost Starbucks more than $375,000 in revenue (the company made $24.6 billion last year, so Howard Schultz will be fine).
  • Starbucks employees allege over 75 workers were fired in retaliation for organizing this year. The company has been hit with hundreds of complaints made to the NLRB, claiming Starbucks shut down stores, fired workers, and intimidated and threatened workers to bust unions.

“Withholding of benefits is definitely affecting people from trying to pursue organizing their stores, which is obviously what Starbucks corporate is looking to do,” Jordie Adams, a Starbucks worker in Boston, told The Guardian.

Antisocial: What Starbucks corporate wasn’t looking to do was become a social media bad guy as a result of its hardball anti-union tactics: a TikTok of staff walking out of a suburban Buffalo location in protest of the firing of a union organizer has gotten over 20 million views this week. For now it’s back to the grind.