Seattle: Starbucks workers hold the line
Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) struck the coffee chain March 22 at numerous stores across the U.S. Outside corporate headquarters in Seattle that day, over 400 Starbucks workers and allies marched protesting the bosses’ union busting. Representing a broad spectrum of labor in Seattle and beyond, they loudly chanted: “Baristas Yes, Bosses No!”
Inside the towering headquarters, the corporate big shots celebrated “Founder’s Day” to honor Howard Shultz, who had stepped down as CEO of the company for the third time but remains on the board of directors.
The rally outside featured SBWU speakers and supporters, many of whom attacked the capitalist system. Gwen, from a Bellingham store, told of her experience when her apartment was so flooded she had had to move out. She had to take four days off work, and it cost her thousands of dollars, but Starbucks wouldn’t accommodate her. They soon fired her. She then led a successful union organizing drive at her store.
Workers from at least 10 unions were on the picket line. Homegrown sandwich workers, who led a successful organizing drive of 200 workers with UNITE HERE, spoke. Sam described how they had to fight the racism and misogyny of the bosses to win. Another Homegrown worker, Zane said, “You can draw a direct line from the murder of George Floyd to the mass organizing of workers across the country!”
Latinx workers organizing against sexual harassment at McDonalds in California addressed the crowd. Marchers were inspired by the enthusiasm of Union of Southern Service Workers members, who helped lead the march to Starbucks’ front door.
The next day the company held its shareholders meeting, where more SBWU supporters challenged Starbucks. When asked if Starbucks would commit to a labor neutrality agreement with SBWU, the company’s chief communications officer and executive vice president Aranthan (AJ) Jones said, “No.” He also said the company wouldn’t agree to a basic union “card check” agreement.
But the many actions on March 22 demonstrated Starbucks workers’ resolve to keep fighting for their rights on the job.