How Starbucks Locations Decided To Participate In The Red Cup Day Strike

Collectors of Starbucks memorabilia may be facing a conundrum today. It's the brand's annual Red Cup Day, the once-a-year event when Starbucks customers get a coveted limited-edition reusable red cup for free with the purchase of a select holiday beverage. According to Fast Company, it's a massive marketing initiative for the coffee mega-chain, but this year some Starbucks employees are using the opportunity to convey an important message. In coordination with Starbucks Workers United, the organization supporting an employee drive for unionization, workers at 113 Starbucks locations nationwide went on strike to shine a spotlight on allegations that the company is refusing to negotiate in good faith and may be attempting to influence workers with anti-union pressure tactics.

A press release distributed by Starbucks Workers United said today's strike is the largest coordinated national union initiative in the campaign's history, as previous actions — like Buffalo's August walk-out and Boston's July strike– have mostly been contained to one area or location.

Why only some Starbucks locations are participating

Only a fraction of Starbucks' U.S. locations are participating in the November 17 strike, including less than half of the locations currently represented by Starbucks Workers United. In a statement provided to Tasting Table, Starbucks Workers United explained each Starbucks store was given the option of joining the strike or not, putting the decision to a vote. In the end, 113 chose to participate in the mass action, dubbed the "Red Cup Rebellion." Casey Moore, a Starbucks barista who serves as a communications liaison for Starbucks Workers United, told Restaurant Dive that the Red Cup Rebellion was a carefully planned initiative that was mapped out over the course of several weeks, giving employees time to weigh the pros and cons of striking and receive support if needed.

Although some workers are choosing not to participate in the strike, a striking Starbucks employee told CNN there's no animosity between striking and non-striking workers who remain on the job or between striking workers and customers who cross the picket line. "We're not trying to intimidate them," Aaron Cirillo told CNN, "we just want them to hear our story about the need for a fair contract."

While Starbucks workers attempt to draw attention to their concerns, they're offering a consolation prize for customers who choose not to cross the picket line. Instead of getting this year's official Starbucks Red Cup, those striking are offering their own red Starbucks Workers United cups, which depict a Grinchy hand dangling a union-branded holiday ornament.