The Potluck

Workers at Minneapolis Starbucks strike on first day of pumpkin spice season

By: - August 30, 2022 11:50 am

Starbucks workers and supporters picket outside the store at 4712 Cedar Ave. in Minneapolis during the workers’ second strike on Aug. 30, 2022. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Workers at a south Minneapolis Starbucks went on strike for the second time on Tuesday, hitting the company during one of its most important days of the year: the first day of pumpkin spice latte season.

“Pumpkin spice is a hallmark of Starbucks, and it’s a really big day for them,” said Emily Mahoney, a shift supervisor. “So, this is saying, ‘hey, we mean business.’”

The one-day strike comes a month after workers at 4712 Cedar Ave. walked off the job for two days, in what was the first strike at a Starbucks in Minnesota.

Baristas at the south Minneapolis store say the company has not bargained with them in good faith and has failed to turn over information on wages and disciplinary action that they have requested. They also say the company violated federal labor law by changing the store’s hours of operation without consulting the union. The company has since shifted the hours back, workers say.

A Starbucks spokesperson shared a statement on behalf of the company saying, “We respect our partners’ right to engage in any legally protected activity or protest without retaliation.”

Workers at the Cedar Avenue store were the second Starbucks to unionize in the state, winning an election in May to be represented by Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union.

In Minnesota, five stores have unionized with one more in Roseville awaiting certification of its results. Two stores narrowly voted against unionizing — in Eden Prairie and another south Minneapolis location — but Workers United is challenging both elections. Workers at a store in Rochester withdrew their petition to unionize shortly before an election was scheduled to take place.

In recent weeks, workers in Boston, Seattle, Philadelphia and other cities have gone on strike to ramp up pressure on the coffee chain as they seek to win labor contracts governing wages, benefits and working conditions.

No Starbucks store anywhere in the country has yet ratified a first contract, and Starbucks faces widespread allegations of failing to negotiate and retaliating against workers as it tries to stop the spread of labor organizing at its roughly 9,000 stores nationwide.

The National Labor Relations Board, which oversees private sector unions, filed suit against the company last week, alleging it illegally withheld raises from union workers. As part of the complaint, the NLRB is seeking back payments for workers and to force Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to record a video for employees explaining workers’ rights.

Earlier this month, the NLRB ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven fired workers in Tennessee.

No workers at the south Minneapolis stores have been fired for union activity, but the workers called on the company to reinstate terminated baristas as part of their strike demands. The union says more than 75 union leaders have been fired across the country.

More than 200 Starbucks stores in 32 states have voted to unionize since the first store in Buffalo, N.Y., unionized in December, inspiring the wave of union drives across the country. More than a hundred more stores have also filed petitions seeking elections with the NLRB.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.