Photo: “Unity Fest” concert held to celebrate victories for the union
Five Starbucks stores in Richmond, Virginia, recently voted to unionize their workplaces. The five victories were won in convincing fashion at each of the stores: Huguenot Village (11-2), Willow Lawn (19-0), Westchester Commons (13-8), Carmia Way (22-3), and Forest Hill Avenue (17-1). These wins brought the number of unionized Starbucks in the country to 25, which has since grown to nearly 50.
In 2021, Starbucks reported a net revenue of $29 billion, a sizable 24% increase from the year before. Despite this massive increase in revenue, Starbucks workers continue to cite low pay, little to no opportunities for pay and benefit increases, inadequate upkeep of facilities and machines, and a desire for respect, recognition, and fair compensation as motivations for their unionization effort.
In response to the momentum of the unionization drive in stores across the country, the company has employed many anti-union tactics, including hiring the legal team from Littler Mendelson, one of the more notorious anti-union legal firms in the country. Furthermore, leaked footage shows Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz actively undermining workers’ efforts, third-partying their unions as “an outside force.”
The company has also taken retaliatory action against the workers by enforcing disciplinary charges that have previously been barely applied. Dillion Dix, a barista at Westchester Commons, confirmed that workers at the store faced a strong union-busting campaign, including off hour calls from managers pressuring them to vote against unionization efforts, being presented with anti-union materials at work, and retaliation against pro-union workers – to the point that one worker had to quit. As barista Iman Djehiche explained to More Perfect Union, “It’s reached to a point where a lot of us have been, you know, discussing finding other jobs … to be able to make ends meet.”
Despite the attempts by Starbucks to stall the gains of their workers, the victories of the partners in Richmond and across the country have demonstrated the resilience of the Starbucks workers.
To celebrate the wins for the union, Richmond Starbucks workers and organizers put together a festival, Unity Fest. The organizers and workers stressed that the event was meant to push back against negative narratives and lies regarding unions. Taking place all day at local music venue The National, the festival included speeches from Starbucks Workers United members, appearances by Marianne Williamson and Bernie Sanders, and performances from local artists. The event was well attended and full of energy from the audience, speakers and performers. At the heart of the event was a message that stressed the necessity for unity and solidarity.
The ongoing struggle between Starbucks workers and the company is one that continues to rapidly develop. The momentum that Starbucks workers across the country have fought hard to create has been spreading quickly. As Starbucks worker Cory Johnson put it, “It just takes one victory to kind of spark a movement. And even someone like Howard Schultz isn’t too big to organize against.”