Starbucks workers at Sehome, Cordata and Iowa and King Street locations went on strike on Thursday, Nov. 17 as a result of chronic understaffing and Starbucks’ refusal to bargain with union organizers. Bellingham Starbucks locations were joined in solidarity by over 100 stores throughout the country.
Dubbed “Red Cup Rebellion,” the strike coincided with Starbucks’ “Red Cup Day,” in which branded reusable cups are given out to customers with select purchases while supplies last. The day is the busiest of the year, according to Starbucks partner and union organizer Shannon Butler.
Striking workers handed out their own version of the reusable “red cup” during the demonstration, branded with the Starbucks Workers United logo.
Managers from other non-unionized locations attempted to keep the Sehome Village location open despite the strike, according to Gwen Williamson, Sehome Starbucks union organizer.
The store only remained open for a few hours until being forced to close, due to striking workers picketing outside the location and redirecting a majority of customers elsewhere.
“Some people were adamant about still getting their coffee, but so many people came up and were super engaged and excited for us,” Williamson said. “This is Sehome’s first strike, and it was nice to see that right off the bat.”
The Sehome location filed for unionization on Oct. 17 but the process has not yet been finalized, while both the Cordata and Iowa and King Street Starbucks have been unionized since this past summer. Sehome workers still need to cast a vote in order to be officially recognized as part of the union.
Sehome union organizers took surveys and collected data to determine when the most partners would be able to attend a vote. According to Williamson, Starbucks disregarded the date and times proposed and instead scheduled it for Dec. 1.
“One of the big points of contention was that so many of our workers are in college, and that’s finals week,” Williamson said. “We told [Starbucks] that, and they didn’t care.”
Starbucks did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
Nina Walsh (she/her) is a city news reporter for The Front. She studies political science and journalism.
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