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Protest against Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

Activists protest against Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on July 19, 2022 in New York City. In Buffalo on September 6, 2022, Starbucks workers asked community members to join them in protesting the company's union-busting practices. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Starbucks Workers Ask People of Buffalo to Condemn Company for 'Disgusting Union-Busting'

Rallying outside 20 Starbucks stores across Buffalo, organizers aim to show the company that "Buffalo is a union town and we won't accept union-busting here."

Julia Conley

Workers at 20 Starbucks locations throughout Buffalo, New York—where the push to unionize the coffee chain's U.S. stores began a year ago—appealed to their community on Tuesday as they rallied to gather support for labor organizers who have been fired by the company in recent months.

"We're not only building a movement for Starbucks workers, we're building a cohesive labor movement."

More than two dozen workers who have been active in unionization efforts have been fired since employees in Buffalo filed for a union election last year, in cities including Memphis, Tennessee; Overland, Kansas; and Buffalo.

"Starbucks has fired 10 union leaders in Buffalo alone," said an organizer on Tuesday, standing outside one of the chain's stores. "Today we're standing on our streets in front of our stores asking our city and our community to stand with us and condemn Starbucks for their disgusting union-busting behavior."

The organizer was joined by one community member holding a sign that read, "Starbucks Customer for a Starbucks Union" and several other supportive Buffalo residents. Workers planned the action for the morning rush, from 7:00 am. until noon and garnered support from Council 66, a local labor union representing 8,500 public employees, and grassroots group Our City Action Buffalo.

The city-wide "informational picket" was aimed at publicizing and protesting what organizers say has been a retaliation campaign by Starbucks and showing the company that "Buffalo is a union town and we won't accept union-busting here," according to Starbucks Workers United.

The pickets follow more than 100 "sip-ins" that organizers held at stores across the country over Labor Day weekend. Supporters of the unionization push were invited to order low-priced items and leave large tips, providing "an opportunity for baristas and their supporters to engage in conversation about labor conditions and build community," according to In These Times.

"We're not only building a movement for Starbucks workers, we're building a cohesive labor movement," Tyler DaGuerre, a Starbucks barista in Boston, told the outlet.

In June, the National Labor Relations Board filed a petition for a federal injunction alleging that Starbucks illegally fired organizers in Buffalo in retaliation for union activity. A ruling has not yet been handed down in the case, but a federal judge in Tennessee recently ordered the company to reinstate several workers who had been fired.

"Starbucks has repeatedly denied firing the Memphis workers for their organizing activity, and this decision... set the record straight," said Starbucks Workers United following the Tennessee ruling. "We will continue holding Starbucks accountable for their vicious and unethical union-busting campaign."

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