Just one week after voting to join Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) — and with their election vote held up by a bogus challenge from the union-busting corporation to the National Labor Relations Board — baristas at Starbucks’ Newton Corner store hit the bricks June 29.
The majority LGBTQIA+ workers in Newton, Massachusetts, couldn’t wait to #StrikeWithPride, along with 150 other union Starbucks stores around the country. SBWU called Strike with Pride “a week-long Unfair Labor Practice strike, demanding that Starbucks negotiate a fair contract with union stores and stop their illegal union-busting campaign,” to last from June 23 to July 1. (workers.org/2023/06/71889/)
While Starbucks opened the store with managers and a handful of scabs from nonunion stores, striking baristas and their supporters put up a spirited fight at the front and back entrances, encouraging many supportive customers to turn back. Teamsters Local 25 sent representatives straight from negotiations with UPS in Washington, D.C., to bolster the lines.
Cannabis workers, members of United Food and Commercial Workers, brought alternative coffee to help customers honor the line. Boston School Bus Drivers brought sound and music, and DSA Labor Group, Young Communist League and Workers World Party branches turned out with strike signs. One regular customer ordered lunch delivered to the strikers on the line.
Workers’ rights are trans and queer rights!
The immediate cause of the nationwide strikes at the end of June were numerous reports by Starbucks workers that management was tearing down and prohibiting workers’ rainbow flags and other displays honoring LGBTQIA+ Pride month. As the month progressed, workers discovered that the bigoted attacks cut even deeper, as Starbucks refused to confirm that it will maintain its touted coverage of gender-affirming, health care-related travel expenses meant to counteract the outlawing of such care by states like Tennessee, Oklahoma and Mississippi.
At Newton Corner, workers wore shirts declaring “Be Gay and Organize” and plastered the store entrances with rainbow and trans flags and signs proclaiming “Workers’ Rights Are Trans & Queer Rights!” They blasted Pride-themed music and chanted: “What do we want? A contract, now!” — echoing a June 29 SBWU statement, which concludes: “The most important thing Starbucks could do for its trans partners would be to end its consistent streak of union busting throughout the United States.” (@StarbucksWorkersUnited, Twitter)
LGBTQIA+ baristas show the way
Julie Langevin, an organizer with SBWU and a former barista, reported at the strike line that the only store in the Boston area where workers have been largely unhindered in their displays of Pride is one at 874 Commonwealth Ave., at the Boston University campus. Last summer, the union baristas and shift supervisors there staged an historic 64-day strike and storefront occupation, precipitated when a bigoted store manager ripped down the workers’ Pride flag in early June 2022.
It is only this militant “law of the street” that can prevail against billionaire Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, along with the capitalist-sponsored bigots in the U.S. Supreme Court, the do-nothing Democrats in the federal government and the MAGA state legislators.
These forces of reaction are intent on pursuing their deadly divide-and-conquer terrorism aimed at those who are leading the historic working-class upsurge at Starbucks, Amazon, Trader Joe’s, universities and schools and many other workplaces.
The next time the courageous workers in Newton Corner or anywhere else put out the call, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, the Greater Boston Labor Council and every organization which claims to represent and be in solidarity with workers should be there in full force to shut the store down until a just union contract is won. No scabs! No contract, no coffee!
Readers can support these frontline workers by taking the “No Contract, No Coffee” pledge at tinyurl.com/48jcnc37 and by donating to the Starbucks Workers’ Fund at tinyurl.com/9j68yvh7.