Starbucks Workers United Plans Ohio 'Sip-In' To Show Union Support

In Columbus, Ohio, Starbucks workers have begun the union election process for the company's 3580 North High Street location. A union win would make this the fifth Starbucks store in the city to unionize and the 14th in the state. In support of the union, Starbucks Workers United (SWU) has organized a "sip-in" on Sunday, September 10 between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

A traditional sit-in features union organizers, employees, and supporters occupying the store and disrupting business, a method popularized during the Civil Rights Movement. This sip-in will be slightly less antagonistic, as the organizers are asking customers who support the union's efforts to come to the store wearing union swag and letting the baristas know they've come to show their support. Rather than cause any disruptions, patrons are also encouraged to discuss the upcoming election with workers as they order coffees with the phrases "Union strong!" or "Union, yes!" and read books or work. 

This event comes following a bevy of efforts by SWU to drum up support for unionization. Just last month, the organization hosted live streaming bargaining sessions on Twitch and launched a nationwide bus tour.

The bigger picture of Starbucks unions

Despite having unionized over 350 stores, Starbucks and SWU have failed to negotiate a union contract on any of them. Starbucks claims that the union is to blame for refusing to bargain, while the union claims that Starbucks is purposefully making the bargaining process difficult in an attempt to stall its efforts.

The truth may be a mixture of both, but the company certainly hasn't made it easy. One major obstacle is that Starbucks is demanding that contracts be formed on a store-by-store basis instead of a nationwide union contract. At the same time, the company isn't allowing national union representatives to be a part of negotiations that are broadcast on Zoom.

When we reached out to Starbucks for comment about the sip-in, the company responded with this statement: "We respect our partners' right to engage in lawful union activities without fear of reprisal or retaliation and welcome the opportunity for partners at our North High and East Torrence store to vote in a neutral, secret ballot election conducted by the NLRB — which allows all partners to make their own informed decision regarding union representation. In advance of the union representation election, our focus is to ensure our partners trust the process is fair and their voice is heard."