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Stocks TradingWhy Starbucks union workers are walking out on Red Cup Day

Why Starbucks union workers are walking out on Red Cup Day

Some Starbucks workers are seeing red — and on Thursday, customers might be, too. 

That’s because Nov. 16 is the coffee chain’s popular Red Cup Day, when Starbucks

releases its free, reusable red holiday cups each year. This year, customers who order a holiday beverage at a participating store on Red Cup Day will score one of the collectible cups — whether they order in-store, via the Starbucks app, or through delivery on Doordash or Uber Eats. 

But Starbucks Workers United plans to disrupt the annual holiday-cup giveaway for the second year in a row by picketing stores to raise awareness for its unionization effort.

“Red Cup Day (November 16th) is Starbucks’s biggest sales event of the season — and also one of the most infamously hard, understaffed days for the baristas that work them,” the SBWU wrote on its website.

Similar to last year, the SBWU is calling on all Starbucks baristas and shift supervisors to join what it’s dubbed the “Red Cup Rebellion” by walking out alongside thousands of Starbucks Workers United baristas “to protest Starbucks’ unfair labor practices.” 

This year, it’s also calling on customers to join them on the picket line. The Red Cup Rebellion has also drawn the support of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which has encouraged its Joint Councils and local unions nationwide “to stand in solidarity with Starbucks Workers United” during their Red Cup Day walkout.

The SBWU has listed its proposals on its website, including stopping alleged union-busting activities and preventing union-organization efforts; addressing labor issues such as understaffing and workplace safety; implementing a base wage of at least $20 an hour with annual raises of 5% and cost-of-living adjustments. 

Starbucks responded with a corporate statement over email, writing in part that, “We remain committed to working with all partners, side-by-side, to elevate them 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 also said that, “Despite escalating rhetoric and recurring rallies demanding contracts, Workers United hasn’t agreed to meet to progress contract bargaining in more than five months. As we join together to uplift the holiday season and reflect on the past year, we again call on Workers United to fulfill their obligations and engage in the work of negotiating first contracts on behalf of the partners they represent.”

The Red Cup Rebellion comes on the heels of what has been called “Hot Labor Summer,” as workers in various industries across the country — from Hollywood writers and actors to hotel workers to teachers, healthcare workers and fast-food employees — went on strike to make similar demands. As MarketWatch’s Levi Sumagaysay wrote earlier this year: “They’re frustrated because their wages have stayed relatively stagnant, while their employers have raked in increased income over the past few years — or longer.” Plus, strikes beget strikes, and workers are feeling emboldened as they see other workers unionizing or striking.

Read more: Actors, writers, hotel housekeepers and grad-student workers are all striking for the same reason


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