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Starbucks Workers in San Francisco Join Strike on Red Cup Day

At the first Starbucks in San Francisco to unionize, workers spent time Thursday by the curb rather than the counter, participating in a one-day strike by some employees and their supporters.

The strike is meant to highlight the push to get Starbucks to negotiate with newly-formed unions.

“We’re looking for stuff like better staffing,” said James Kreiss, a Starbucks shift supervisor. “We’re looking for more predictable schedules. We are looking for livable wages.”

There has been a call for employees to unionize for months, but each store has to vote to do so individually.

“We are striking basically to get Starbucks to negotiate with us in good faith,” Kreiss said. “We’re trying to put some pressure on them because at the moment, at least at my store, we’ve been certified with our union after we won our election in August and we still haven’t received a date to start negotiations.”

Starbucks released a statement on Thursday’s action, saying, in part, “We remain committed to all partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone. In those stores where partners have elected union-representation, we have been willing and continue to urge the union to meet us at the bargaining table to move the process forward in good faith.”

The strike comes on Starbucks’ so-called red cup day, a day the company has used to kick off the holiday season by giving customers who qualify a reusable red cup.

“This day is usually chaos because people go crazy for these cups,” Kreiss said. “They love them and we’re not staffed appropriately for it.”

Kyle Trainer has worked at the Starbucks for five years and says the job can be stressful.

“I don’t think the idea of an entry level job needs to mean you need to struggle and scrape by to get by,” he said. “I think everyone should be taken care of.”

Kaumudi Misra, an associate professor of management at Cal State East Bay, said there has been an upswing in union organizing over the past five years.

“More people have said that they would like to unionize,” she said. “We’ve also seen large companies, some warehouses actually winning a unionization drive.”

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