Monday capped off a weekend of sit-ins hosted at three Starbucks locations in Knoxville.
As Starbucks’ partners across the country continue their fight against what they call unfair treatment, and Knoxville employees, supporters and city leaders are joining in.
“This fight’s not over yet,” said Maggie Carter, Knoxville barista and partner organizer. “We’ve decided to organize and mobilize and really show Starbucks that we know our rights. We know that by law, we are allowed to sit across from them and bargain a contract that benefits every partner working in our store.”
Knoxville’s unionization comes amid claims of management issues, staffing shortages, unfair expectations and low pay.
“We are coming in; doing the work of three people,” said Barista Danielle Jones. “One barista is doing the work of three people. We’re not getting the wages we should get. They’ve denied us benefits because we unionized. We’re just slowly wasting away honestly.”
“We see 8.2 billion in profits while we’re scraping by to buy groceries and pay our utility bill in the same paycheck,” said Carter.
Starbucks has responded to the national call for change, including management and staffing issues. The company offers two paths, direct conversations with employees or conversations that include a union.
Currently, three Knoxville Starbucks have unionized. It was at those three locations that this weekend’s sip-ins were held. The sip-ins were also during Labor Day weekend, a time when workers are acknowledged.
“Celebrate worker power and the power we all have when we organize and take what we deserve from our company and celebrate the solidarity among all of us,” said Carter.
Two weeks ago, a judge ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven workers at a Memphis location who claimed they were wrongly fired in retaliation for their union organizing efforts. Starbucks disputed that argument and said they were fired for breaking safety rules.
The coffee chain also faces a complaint from federal labor regulators claiming Starbucks has been holding back pay raises and benefits from unionized stores. Starbucks is countering with a claim that the Federal Labor Board is improperly coordinating with union organizers.
In March, as the Knoxville union discussion heated up, Starbucks sent WATE a statement from the company’s executive vice president that said in part “…we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed.”
Organizers urge those who want to join their partner’s stand to visit the Starbucks locations. Customers are encouraged to order with the name “Solidarity,” “Union strong” or “Union yes.”