Starbucks Workers On Strike Just Got A Big Win

Over the past year, Starbucks employees nationwide have been attempting to unionize in an effort to improve working conditions and increase accountability from the coffee giant. Starbucks Workers United is leading the charge, pledging to support employees as they strive to become more empowered in the workplace. While forming a union can be an imposing prospect, Starbucks baristas who are still hesitant to join out of fear of employer backlash may reconsider after learning that the union recently established a venti-sized fund.

HuffPost explains that the recent campaign to unionize Starbucks locations started in Buffalo, New York, and has clipped along successfully since then with 85% of the elections going to a union win as of May 3, 2022. The movement began when employees felt they were experiencing poor working conditions and not being represented in a fair and equal manner. Now, over 100 Starbucks stores are holding elections to unionize and 27 have already held strikes, per Restaurant Dive, in an attempt to push the coffee chain to swifter action. To help the striking workers and calm retaliation concerns, the union established a fund worth $1 million.

Starbucks employees point to past behavior for retaliation concerns

Employees fighting for improved work conditions through union membership often toe a fine line between the need for action and the fear of retaliation from their employer. In an effort to assuage Starbucks union members' fears, Restaurant Dive reports Workers United has pledged $1 million to a strike fund for employees. While this may seem like overkill to some, Starbucks baristas believe they have real reasons to be concerned based on past behavior.

Most recently on Saturday, June 4 Bloomberg shared some Starbucks workers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the coffee chain, accusing it of closing one New York location in retaliation for unionizing; Starbucks denies this. In the past, some activists have claimed the chain wrongfully terminated their employment because of their union affiliation (via NPR).

As the movement to join Starbucks Workers United continues to gain momentum, Starbucks has seen an increase in the number of strikes being held at stores across the U.S. The fund, which includes a $50,000 donation from the American Federation of Teachers, will be used to compensate employees for lost wages and benefits while on strike, potentially providing $355 per worker should they decide to strike.

According to CNBC, 120 Starbucks stores are currently holding or have upcoming union elections. Union leaders hope the strike fund will help future members feel that their livelihood can be maintained if they choose to strike and encourage them to feel safer as they move for longer strikes that will likely gain attention from Starbucks.