ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) — Those hoping to get a free reusable cup at Starbucks in Alcoa may have been disappointed as union workers at the Cusick Road and Alcoa Highway location were on strike, demanding for the company to bargain with their union.
On Wednesday, Starbucks held it’s annual “Red Cup Day,” where company hands out free reusable cups. The day is one of the busiest customer traffic days of the years, according to Starbucks Workers United. More than 175 stores across the country went on strike as a part of the second annual “Red Cup Rebellion.“
The union also said that Starbucks has refused to bargain around promotional days and provide additional staffing on the days when offers cause customers to flood the stores.
“The partners are outdoors on strike today. It’s the second consecutive Red Cup Rebellion. All of this is under the overwhelming arch that the company refuses to come to the bargaining table with the partners in this store who chose union representation to better their workplace, to better their working conditions, better their wages, their benefits, and Starbucks refuses to meet them at the table,” said Maggie Carter, a staff organizer with Workers United.
Carter explained that there has been one bargaining session, which lasted 12 minutes and was handled by Starbucks’ lawyers, rather than a company representative.
“It was just their lawyers who said ‘we’re not authorized to say anything to you,’ and that’s not OK,” Carter said. “Basically they have those promotional days to reach those [record] profits, but they refuse to bargain with the partners in the store, they refuse to have adequately staffed these stores on promotional days and so partners are basically just forced to struggle with all channels of the business open and so that’s obviously increased the workload that we already feel is a burden, so that’s a lot of why we’re out here.”
According to Carter, some locations have been unionized for more than 500 days and have not had any development toward a contract. Still, unionized workers are standing up for themselves and the benefits they’ve fought for, something that Carter said was exciting and encouraging.
“The Union is changing things for partners across the country. Whether the Union is in your shop or not, we are fighting for you. And so that’s what’s really cool is just to see the solidarity amongst partners, non-union, union, everybody’s coming together for this one to say that enough is enough. Corporate greed has no home here at Starbucks and we’re trying to make that the way for the future,” Carter said.
On November 6, Starbucks announced that it had increased it’s hourly wages and added other benefits, but only some of those perks would be available to union workers.
Unionization efforts by Knoxville Starbucks workers have taken place for more than a year, with a fourth location unionizing in Knoxville unionizing this spring.