Red Cup Day: Unionized Starbucks Workers Walkout of Hundreds of Stores to Protest for Contracts

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On November 16, nearly 9,000 Starbucks employees are expected to walk out of over 200 stores around the United States in what they are calling the "Red Cup Rebellion." Each year, Starbucks releases a free reusable red cup ahead of the holiday season — and according to Reuters, the release day is one of the coffee brand's biggest traffic days.

The strike comes after 363 Starbucks stores in 41 states have voted to unionize over the last two years. Starbucks has yet to come to the bargaining table with the unionized shops (unless it is in person, which is a central issue). Some of which were closed in the time since. Last week, workers filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the Starbucks’ refusal to bargain around promotional days.

According to a press release, "Workers will demand Starbucks turn off mobile ordering on future promotion days, which company executives are scheduling with increasing frequency." Striking workers plan to walk to non-union stores to speak with them about joining their efforts inviting them to join in the growing movement. "In advance of Red Cup day workers at union stores delivered Red Cup survival kits to their counterparts at stores that have not yet voted on the union," the press release says.

Alongside worker walkouts is a student solidarity movement across dozens of campuses in the United States. At Georgetown, a group of students signed a petition demanding their college cut ties with Starbucks. "We call for the university's administration to end Aramark's licensing agreement with Starbucks and invite a new coffee brand to replace Starbucks in the Leavey Center," the letter explains. “In this transition process, we demand no changes occur in the payment, staffing, benefits, or number of hours for the dining services employees working at the above-mentioned café." They also demand the university completely divest from Starbucks.

In an email to Teen Vogue, Starbucks provided a company statement saying they are aware of the day of action. “We remain committed to working with all partners, side-by-side, to elevate the everyday, and we hope that Workers United’s priorities will shift to include the shared success of our partners and working to negotiate union contracts for those they represent,” the statement reads.

In an email interview, Ella Clark, a first-year student at Georgetown University who led the union drive at her Starbucks store back home in California, tells Teen Vogue that it's important for campuses to divest because "money talks." Clark says, "It sends a message to the greater public that we should be OK with this.” Clark goes on to say that message is not always acceptable to students and staff.

David Ramirez, a fourth-year student at UCLA and former Starbucks worker who is one of the leaders in the Students Against Starbucks movement, says campus solidarity on Red Cup Day is a turning point. "It holds a lot of significance to college students because we see the intersectionality between workers' rights and our futures. Students can't achieve social mobility in the careers we go into until people in our communities get fair wages and working conditions. All of our struggles are intersectional," Ramirez says. "A lot of students are also baristas."

The walkout comes on the heels of several successful strikes around the United States, including the UAW, SAG-AFTRA, and WGA. Ramirez says that young people now have an increased awareness of labor issues and solidarity movements will become more prevalent. "On our campus, we've been mobilizing students to show up to local picket lines and support workers,” he says. “We know that these strikes and others will benefit us ultimately because we may one day go into these fields."

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Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

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