Why The Longest-Running Starbucks Strike Has Ended

In case you missed it, Starbucks has been locked in a unionization struggle since the beginning of this year as workers unite to demand fair labor practices. Since the start of the effort, Starbucks has faced multiple lawsuits for penalizing pro-union employees (per NPR). Now, in the latest chapter of the unionization struggle, a shifting of the tides. Earlier this week, on Wednesday, the strike at a Brookline store in Boston came to a victorious conclusion for employees, per Boston.com.

The Brookline strike began on July 18, when Boston Starbucks Workers United took to Twitter to announce the halting of their labor due to a "chaotic and hostile work environment" reportedly instigated by the arrival of the store's interim manager. "Starbucks baristas at 874 Commonwealth Avenue are ON STRIKE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE due to unfair labor practices," the post read. Per the announcement, under the new management, the Boston Starbucks employees were being denied benefits, threatened with termination for not complying with a new availability policy, subjected to racial and gender discrimination and sudden hour-cutting, and consistently forced to work understaffed shifts. 

For reference, 874 Commonwealth Ave. is 0.2 miles, a 6-minute walk, from Boston University. If you've ever worked a service industry job in a college town, then you understand how serious of an issue understaffing can be for employees. A whopping 64 straight days of picketing made this strike the historically "longest documented action" (per Boston.com) ever taken against Starbucks — and here's why it finally ended.

Spurring the unionization movement forward

In a tweet announcing the victory, Boston Starbucks Workers United detailed the terms to which Starbucks agreed to end the strike. A replacement is actively being sought for allegedly problematic manager Tomi Chorlian, and claims about her behavior are being investigated. Perhaps even more importantly, Starbucks conceded that "the minimum availability requirement cannot be unilaterally implemented at union stores." Now, no part-time employee at Brookline (or any other non-union store) will have to work under the fear of termination simply for being part-time. 

During its long run, the strike gathered an impressive amount of support along the way. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and state representative Tommy Vitolo vocalized their endorsement, per Boston.com. Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted his congratulations to the Brookline baristas: "When workers stand together and fight for justice, there is nothing they cannot accomplish. I was proud to have stood on the picket line with them."

Brookline Starbucks employees are feeling energized by the win. "Being a part of this strike since day one has been one of the most inspiring things that I have been a part of," Brookline barista Adam Ryan told Boston.com. This strike provides a powerful example for other aspiring union workers. "It is a huge loss for them," barista Taylor Dickerson said of Starbucks. "Of course, acknowledging our win is going to show how much power unions have, and that if other people want to unionize and go on strike, they can."