Thousands Of Unionized Starbucks Workers Will Walk Out On Red Cup Day

During what is traditionally Starbucks' busiest event of the year, Red Cup Day, thousands of the company's team members plan to leave their posts. The action, which is set to take place on November 16, 2023, is meant to draw attention to ongoing labor disputes and anti-union activity on the part of Starbucks, says Starbucks Workers United (SWU), the union representing workers, in a statement posted to its website. 

Red Cup Day was chosen not just for its financial value to the company, but also due to it being a notoriously intense and understaffed day for baristas and shift supervisors stretched thin as customers clamor for a reusable red cup that comes free with the purchase of a fall or 2023 Starbucks holiday beverage. SWU is calling the action "Red Cup Rebellion" and has called not just for Starbucks workers to walk off the job, but for "customers and allies to lead actions at Starbucks stores in their communities in solidarity with workers rising up for a fairer workplace," reads the statement. 

Customers and others interested in showing their support for the struggle can use the SWU website to find the location of striking stores in their area and learn how to participate. Red Cup Rebellion is not the first move against the coffee house chain on this momentous day. Last year, in 2022, Starbucks workers staged a Red Cup Day strike.

Starbucks cries foul

In a statement sent to Tasting Table, Starbucks says that it is aware of "a day of action at a small subset of our U.S. stores next week" and remains "committed to working with all partners, side-by-side, to elevate the everyday." The company accuses SWU of refusing to come to the negotiating table to resolve the ongoing disputes that have led to the Red Cup Rebellion and other labor actions.

"Despite escalating rhetoric and recurring rallies demanding a contract, Workers United hasn't agreed to meet to progress contract bargaining in more than four months," reads Starbucks' statement. "As we join together to uplift the holiday season and reflect on the past year, we again call on Workers United to fulfill their obligations and engage in the work of negotiating first contracts on behalf of the partners they represent."

Starbucks claims that SWU, which represents workers at around 340 stores, has only responded to 20% of over 500 proposed bargaining sessions. In contrast, the company says, both the Teamsters and United Steelworkers Starbucks unions — which together represent a much smaller subset of Starbucks employees — have been more responsive and have arrived at tentative partial or whole collective bargaining agreements.