By STEVE LEIGH
— SEATTLE — At 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 22, workers at the 42nd and University Way Starbucks closed the store early and declared a strike for the next day. They picketed the store on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and closed the store for the whole day. It will reopen on Wednesday morning.
The picket on Tuesday was lively and raucous. Most of the 20+ picketers were Starbucks “partners”(workers) from that store. Community members, supporters, Starbucks workers from other stores, and members of other unions joined in as well. Other unions included UAW 4121 (University of Washington grad students) and SEIU. Construction workers gave support on their breaks.
While picketing, they chanted so all the neighbors could hear: “No Contracts, No Coffee! No Workers, No Starbucks!” “What’s Outrageous? Poverty Wages!”
Daisy, a worker at the store, explained, “This is a solidarity strike!” She said that when workers at University Way heard that Starbucks had closed another union store, they struck in support of the laid-off workers. The Holman Road Starbucks, north of Seattle, is being subcontracted to the grocery store it will operate within after it reopens. Management would not guarantee that the laid-off workers would be rehired. This is the third unionized store in the area that Starbucks has closed. Workers recognized a pattern and struck to stop union busting.
The workers on strike have their own grievances as well. They won a union election in June, but Starbucks has so far refused to negotiate. Their issues include better pay, guaranteed hours, mental health resources, and health care. The company is also refusing to staff the higher paid coffee cart at University of Washington games with union workers. Further, the company is trying to prevent union workers with short hours from picking up shifts at other stores.
Workers on the line were hopeful. As one said, “I am optimistic because we are standing up and doing something! We are letting them know we won’t stand for it. This is a high profit store, so we are hurting them.” Rico, who has worked at different Starbucks stores for over three years, echoed this sentiment, saying that he expects improvements.
Jeffrey noted, “I didn’t even want to come to work today. But when I heard there was a strike, I said, ‘Hell, yeh! I’ll be there.’”
Starbucks has closed three union stores in the area without admitting any anti-union bias. They often claim the reason is high crime and safety issues at particular stores. Jeffrey disputes this. He says the Olive Way store he used to work at was profitable. He said, “I feel grateful my co-workers are ready to take action. I am grateful that they are standing up for them and us.”
Starbucks workers are leading the way all across the U.S. and beyond! To support the workers, join a picket line near you and/or go to the workers’ website: https://sbworkersunited.org/
Steve Leigh is a member of Seattle Revolutionary Socialists and the Revolutionary Socialist Network.
Photo: Starbucks workers march in Seattle in April 2022. (Capitol Hill Seattle Blog)