Starbucks Workers Are Making A Big Move Towards Unionizing In Boston

Workers at a Boston Starbucks are digging in for the long-haul with the launch this week of an indefinite strike. According to Restaurant Dive, employees at the store who are members of Starbucks Workers United walked off the job Monday, forcing the busy location near Boston University to close indefinitely.

Workers involved in the action claim Starbucks has treated them unfairly following a vote unionize earlier this year. In the wake of that vote, Starbucks brought in a new manager at the location. According to NBC Boston, employees sent a letter to both the current store manager and the district manager alleging that the new manager, Tomi Chorlian, who joined Starbucks as a manager in 2019 (via LinkedIn), has exhibited abusive behavior including threatening employees, instituting overly restrictive policies, and creating a "chaotic and hostile" work environment. Employees involved in the strike also claim that Starbucks is cutting hours for long-time workers while hiring new employees.

In addition to demanding the new manager be replaced, striking employees want Starbucks corporate headquarters to address the initial concerns that drove them to seek union membership, including staffing issues (via Restaurant Dive).

In it for the long haul

The Boston strike is the latest in a string of at least 50 similar actions Starbucks has faced in recent months (via Restaurant Dive), but this is the first indefinite strike. Fueled by support from a $1 million Workers United fund, striking workers in Boston will receive about 70% of their average earnings. The American Federation of Teachers contributed an additional $50,000 to that fund and Boston-area Teamsters have agreed not to make food deliveries to the store. In addition, employees at unionized Starbucks locations in Greater Boston are lending support by joining their colleagues on the picket line.

"Workers definitely feel just like they have a bit more of a safety net to go on strike with the strike funds," one employee told Restaurant Dive. "Just knowing that, you know, they'll be able to still pay rent and buy groceries if they go on strike."

In recent months, Starbucks has terminated the employment of outspoken union supporters. The company maintains that those terminations were not related to union activity. The company has also recently closed three unionized stores (via Restaurant Dive). Starbucks stated to NBC Boston that the company "values each of our partners and we respect their legal rights to engage in organizing activity or protest. We are grateful for each partner who did come into work today and we are doing our best to listen to the concerns of all our partners."