Starbucks' Response To The Pro-Union Red Cup Day Strike

Red Cup Day is Starbucks' annual holiday promotion during which participating locations give away reusable hot beverage cups with holiday beverages purchased, according to CBS News. It's important to Starbucks' customers, some of whom arrive before store hours to ensure they'll get their now-iconic Starbucks holiday cup while the limited supply lasts, per The Washington Post. It's also important to Starbucks because it may be one of the coffee chain's busiest days of the year — and because Starbucks apparently realizes how important the event may be to customers.

This year's Red Cup Day was November 17. Not coincidentally, it's also the day designated for a walk-out by the union representing Starbucks employees at 375 Starbucks locations across the nation. "This is the Starbucks Workers United's largest labor action since stores began organizing in Buffalo, New York, last year," The Seattle Times reports. The purpose is to protest company actions regarded by the union as retaliatory against pro-union employees and to encourage Starbucks to participate more robustly in the collective bargaining process, a Starbucks union supporter from Southern California told CNN

Starbucks expected demonstrations to proceed at what it described as a "a small number" of its company-owned locations (of which there are more than 9,000, according to The New York Times). So far, it's been a shade over 100, per The Seattle Times. In a statement sent to Tasting Table, Starbucks responded to the pro-union Red Cup Day strike, and it's not necessarily what you might expect.

Starbucks isn't necessarily seeing red

"Each year, our partners and our customers look forward to Red Cup Day," Starbucks said in a statement to Tasting Table in response to a pro-union walkout at some of the many Starbucks locations across the country. With that apparently in mind, the union assisting Starbucks employees to organize, Workers United, has said its "goal is to shut down stores during the strikes," according to The Seattle Times. Like we said above, the timing was not exactly coincidental.

As it turns out, customer response has been mixed, according to The Washington Post. Some have refused to cross picket lines, others have done so brazenly, and still others have joined the protesters. Only time will tell how the Red Cup Day strike impacts Starbuck's sales. But Starbucks affirms that it respects its employees' right to protest, as long as said protest is conducted lawfully. Starbucks didn't specifically mention its thoughts on the potential impact the strike may have on the Starbucks customer experience, but it reiterated its "focus has been, and continues to be, on uplifting the Starbucks experience for our partners and customers."

"We remain committed to all partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone," Starbucks said in closing. "In those stores where partners have elected union-representation, we have been willing and continue to urge the union to meet us at the bargaining table to move the process forward in good faith."