Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant called for holding actions across the country on Feb. 15 to protest Starbucks’ firing of the Memphis 7. In front of Starbucks’ national/world headquarters, 100 unionists, Starbucks workers and solidarity activists picketed and chanted, “When the Memphis 7 are under attack, what do we do? Stand Up, Fight Back!”
The demonstration was initiated by Sawant’s office and the Starbucks workers, and it brought out broad support and media coverage. Two of the fired Memphis workers flew to Seattle to represent — LaKota McGlawn and Beto Sanchez. Looking up at the huge Starbucks Tower, they detailed the many cases of harassment and disrespect the workers were forced to endure. They said Starbucks wanted to make an example of them, but that was a big mistake.
Calling Memphis a union city, Sanchez said Starbucks’ workers looked to gain support from workers in Memphis and all across the country. Sawant described the resolution she got the Seattle City Council to pass last week, protesting Starbucks’ union busting and calling for solidarity for Starbucks workers. Over 800 favorable emails from workers forced the Council to pass the resolution of support, 7-0.
Two Seattle Starbucks worker-organizers from the Broadway and Westlake stores spoke. The Westlake store worker called out Starbucks for racism for the firing of the Memphis organizing committee. Workers at the Seattle Roastery — a big factory-style store — have now joined the organizing drive.
A concrete worker from Teamsters Local 174 — on strike for justice against the giant cement companies’ cartel for almost two months — brought solidarity from their struggle. A young speaker from the Martin Luther King Jr. County Labor Council, representing 150,000 workers, spoke of the importance of organizing millennials due to the declining living standards of this generation of workers.
The rally/picket ended with a march to the nearest Starbucks store, where worker-organizers went inside with a message for local workers.