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Starbucks Unionists Continue Their Work


The Starbucks union campaign has stalled out in the face of openly illegal behavior by the company. So it’s really hard to keep it going. But there were strike actions at hundreds of stores around the nation last week and these are important to keep any organization going. Here’s a good piece on the actions in New York.

Starbucks workers in New York City have filed 32 more complaints alleging that the coffee giant violated the city’s labor laws.

New York’s Fair Workweek law says that employers have to give their workers regular schedules from week to week, 14 days notice of their scheduled hours and extra pay for shift changes, among other requirements. Starbucks baristas have repeatedly accused the company of running afoul of the law: They have filed nearly 90 complaints with the city related to the law since February.

“We make every effort and have invested significant resources to ensure partner scheduling practices are in alignment with New York City’s Fair Workweek Law,” Starbucks said in a statement to CNBC.

The allegations come as Starbucks baristas at more than 200 locations nationwide strike Thursday, on the company’s busy Red Cup promotion day. To celebrate the holiday season, Starbucks every year gives away reusable red cups bearing the company’s logo with any purchase.

Starbucks Workers United said the strike is protesting understaffing at the company’s locations, particularly on promotion days. Workers are also demanding that Starbucks turn off mobile ordering on future promotion days.

Convenient mobile ordering has become important to Starbucks’ business as customers increasingly prefer ordering from their phones instead of waiting in drive-thru lines or stores for their drinks. But mobile orders can overwhelm baristas quickly, especially on days when the company offers discounts or freebies. Mobile order and delivery accounted for a third of the company’s sales in its latest quarter.

Nearly two years after the union first won an election at a Starbucks store, more than 360 of Starbucks’ roughly 9,000 company-owned locations have voted to unionize, according to National Labor Relations Board data. But no location has come close to a collective bargaining agreement with Starbucks yet.

I don’t expect that to happen either, not unless the NLRB goes to an unprecedented effort of aggression against the lawbreaking company. But even without a contract, unions still have value as a space to build solidarity, come up with useful actions, and force the company to improve conditions. So this still is an unalloyed good, even if the workers ran straight into the structural reality of the corporate domination of America.

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