Four Colorado Starbucks join nationwide walkout on Red Cup Day

Starbucks workers at more than 100 U.S. stores, including four in Colorado, went on strike Thursday in their largest labor action since a campaign to unionize the company’s stores began late last year.

The walkouts coincide with Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives free reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink. Workers say it’s often one of the busiest days of the year. Starbucks declined to say how many red cups it plans to distribute.

Workers say they’re seeking better pay, more consistent schedules and higher staffing levels in busy stores. Stores in 25 states planned to take part in the labor action, according to Starbucks Workers United, the group organizing the effort. Strikers are handing out their own red cups with union logos.

Starbucks, which opposes the unionization effort, said it is aware of the walkouts and respects its employees’ right to lawfully protest. The Seattle company noted that the protests are happening at a small number of its 9,000 company-run U.S. locations.

“We remain committed to all partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” the company said Thursday in a statement.

Coinciding with the walkouts, another Starbucks store in Colorado announced plans to unionize. The Boulder store at 2400 Baseline Rd. petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for a union vote on Thursday, with “an overwhelming majority” signing union authorization cards, according to a news release. If employees vote for the union, they’ll be the ninth Starbucks store in the Colorado and first in Boulder to unionize.

“Howard, because you have forgotten, let us remind you of our mission statement: ‘To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time,’ ” wrote the Boulder store’s organizing committee, partners and more in a letter to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. “The spirits of our partners, however, are not being nurtured, ESPECIALLY not when we’re running a two person floor.”

They cited “no progress” with management about wage increases, so “we are left to partner with Starbucks Workers United to amplify our unheard voice.”

The Colorado coffeehouses staging walkouts Thursday include Colorado Springs at 4465 Centennial Blvd., Denver at 250 Columbine St., Superior at 2800 Rock Creek Circle and Greeley at 2604 11th Ave.

“The labor movement is inspired to see people pushing to make sure their workplace is the best it can possibly be,” said Robert Lindgren, political director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, a union federation.

More than 260 locations — and almost 7,000 employees — are represented by Starbucks Workers United. The Labor Board “has issued 39 official complaints against Starbucks, encompassing over 900 alleged violations of federal labor law,” according to Thursday’s news release.

Starbucks and the union have begun contract talks at 53 stores, with 13 additional sessions scheduled, Starbucks Workers United said. No agreements have been reached so far.

The process has been contentious. Earlier this week, a regional director with the NLRB filed a request for an injunction against Starbucks in federal court, saying the company violated labor law when it fired a union organizer in Ann Arbor, Mich. The regional director asked the court to direct Starbucks to reinstate the employee and stop interfering in the unionization campaign nationwide.

It was the fourth time the NLRB has asked a federal court to intervene. In August, a federal judge ruled that Starbucks had to reinstate seven union organizers who were fired in Memphis, Tenn. A similar case in Buffalo has yet to be decided, while a federal judge ruled against the NLRB in a case in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, Starbucks has asked the NLRB to temporarily suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores, citing allegations from a board employee that regional officials improperly coordinated with union organizers. A decision in that case is pending.

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