The Starbucks Union Effort Is Heating Up After This Dramatic Walk-Out

Months have passed since Starbucks received yet another lawsuit over its treatment of pro-union workers and still the struggle between the two continues. In fact, it's gone viral. Four days ago, Starbucks Workers United shared a video of workers walking out of a Starbucks on TikTok. The text floating above the video explains that they walked out after the management of the cafe fired a vocally pro-union worker. "[Starbucks] is this what you want to be known for?" the union asked in the description. The sentiment seems to be broadly shared as the video has been liked 3.2 million times with the comments section filled with supportive messages. "Starbucks really is hell bent on ruining their reputation, aren't they," one comment asked. 

According to Today, this walk out occurred in Buffalo, New York — the same Buffalo, New York that saw the start of the unionization wave. The fired worker, Sam Amato, had been with Starbucks for 13 years. However, Starbucks claimed that he had violated store policies, especially its closing ones. Amato claimed the high turnover caused by Starbucks' anti-union policies caused his cafe to be understaffed, prompting a different supervisor to close early on July 3. "I strongly believe I was fired in retaliation for being a union leader. The reasons Starbucks gave me were made up," he told Today. 

And historical precedence seems to back up this claim.

Starbucks attempts to court a pro-worker image

At one point, Starbucks may have had some claim to the benefit of the doubt. Indeed, the way the company frames the discussion indicates a wish to appear pro-worker. In a letter issued on July 11, interim CEO Howard Schultz emphasized the need to reinvent the brand. That reinvention included a focus on a new principle of "Shared power, shared accountability, shared success." Similarly, The New York Times quoted Starbucks' stance that they were not anti-union but pro-partner in January. But a video call leaked to More Perfect Union included Schultz expressing the belief that organizers were not workers, but an outside force purposefully agitating the business.

Eleven-year Starbucks veteran Amato insisted to The Guardian that Starbucks' efforts to appear pro-worker are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. "Starbucks pretends to be an ally and so progressive but they are the opposite and I genuinely have been shocked at how low they're willing to go," he stated of the company, which has accrued over 200 claims of National Labor Relations Act violations (per CNBC).