Striking workers and their supporters picketed outside Starbucks at Franklin Blvd and Villard St. on Wednesday August 10th. Hours later workers at the West 11th Starbucks walked out in response to degraded labor conditions and firing threats from management for union organizing.
Within hours of the Franklin Blvd strike launching, and amid an ongoing week-long Willamette St. Starbucks strike, workers walked out of the West 11th Starbucks. Workers said management had threatened to fire employees for union organizing activity and that they were experiencing degraded labor conditions at the store. Critical under-staffing and increased pressure to improve drive-thru service times had led to significant decreases in quality of service according to workers.
Workers were appalled by management’s comments about the high stress conditions on the service floor as a “shit show.” They were also frustrated by the inability of managers to consistently work for any length of time under the labor conditions they helped to create. Though management has threatened to bring in replacement workers at the West 11th location, as of 2 PM Wednesday Starbucks remains closed.
West 11th workers have raised many of the same concerns as their Franklin Blvd comrades concerning the lack of raises and benefits at unionized stores. One worker who has been employed for seven years says it can be hard to even get consistent hours working for Starbucks.
The workers picket line along West 11th was constantly cheered by passing drivers loudly honking in solidarity. Equipment and supplies quickly emerged for the sudden strike and even the local nurses union delivered pizzas to the picketing workers. Rumors have even suggested that larger union rallies may be brewing as the local wave of Starbucks worker strikes continues to build.
The typically busy Starbucks on Franklin Blvd was closed at 8 AM and the words “ON STRIKE” were loudly painted on a cardboard sign in front of the main entrance. Organizers unloaded supplies for the strikers with their young children in tow and were in the process of bouncing back and forth between the Franklin store strike and an ongoing strike at the Willamette Starbucks in Eugene.
The strikers on Franklin are truly impressed with the week-long strike at the Willamette St store but their strike action will only picket for one day from 8am to Noon. Previous strike actions taught workers that if they blow a hole in the stores schedule during its prime business hours it won’t even be worth it for management to try to open the store later in the day. Though one worker supports this monkeywrenching strategy he believes the crew is eager to take their action to the level of the Willamette St crew instead of just a “poke in the eye” that todays strike represents.
Supporter Kelly Missett joined the strikers in solidarity in the early morning. She says she followed the local Democratic Socialist of America chapter on Instagram and saw a post made about the strike. “I want to get plugged in with more left-wing networks, saw the event on Instagram, and thought this would be a good place to start,” said Missett.
By about 8:30 AM the strikers had set up a noticeable presence and were starting to get their first car horn honks of solidarity from passing drivers. One striking worker had just been hired the previous day and was spending their first training day on the picket line.
At the end of April local Starbucks employees had their initial vote to form a union and have had little response over the last four months from corporate management concerning contract negotiations. A company-wide benefits package has recently been withheld from all unionized Starbucks stores. It included starting wage increases, tenured employee benefits, and several facility upgrades. This unfair treatment of unionized stores is one of the main reasons for the timing of Wednesday’s strike but management’s sluggishness in beginning contract negotiations is also an ongoing issue.
Seven out of eight stores in Eugene are unionized but efforts to dilute union votes by including stores as far away as Coos Bay in local negotiations are an ongoing management strategy. Employees are still fighting a store-by-store struggle to secure contracts and are afraid regional imbalances could threaten their high concentration of support in Eugen. Even so union members have created a Starbucks Regional Organizing Committee and a tentative agenda has started to take shape to aid ongoing union organizing.
The Willamette St. Starbucks strike will continue until Sunday Aug 14th and there is an ongoing call for community support to join the picket line every day from 8 AM – 2 PM. Well supported, upbeat, and noticeably caffeinated, striking workers displayed a sign with a simple message Wednesday morning, “No Contract, No Coffee.”