Militant Journalism

Starbucks workers: Partners in the labor movement

Starbucks workers, also known as partners, at store #5583 in Covina, California, on the corner of Citrus and Rowland, declared their intent to file for a union election on April 11th. Over 230 of 9,000 U.S. Starbucks locations have filed for union elections within the last year, organizing with Starbucks Workers United

Workers of the global company have maintained a strong and effective campaign to unionize within the last year despite the company’s anti-union campaign against them. Partners are demanding a workplace that provides a living wage, safe working regulations, reasonable amount of hours, sufficient staffing, and fair disciplinary regulations. Management has consistently failed to treat their “partners” with dignity and respect. 

In an interview with Liberation News, Jackleen Ruiz, a current shift lead and 21-year old college student, described worsening conditions: “Starbucks is requiring us to work at these insanely fast rates, yet, refusing to give us the adequate number of workers, offering measly hours and wages, and creating a hierarchy of control that does not value the input or needs of our ‘partners.’

Ruiz continued, “This system is keeping those at the bottom at the bottom, and those at the top on the top. You see it when they replace district managers or CEOs. They are not hiring from those who have an actual understanding of the store. Rather, they are replaced by someone who has operated and rotated within those often inaccessible spheres of influence.”

Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz and management have been adamant in their anti-union efforts, claiming that the company will be able to handle issues without “outside organizations,” giving non-union stores benefits and targeting union organizers. Additionally, Starbucks launched an anti-union website filled with common union-busting tactics to prevent collective worker solidarity across the company. Starbucks has also threatened that unionized locations will be deprived from any potential benefits launched by the company.

Starbucks anti-union flier. Photo credit: Liberation News

At the store level, partners have been routinely fear-mongered about the possibility of paying union dues and have faced inconsistently enforced disciplinary charges, with some key organizers being fired. Starbucks has also employed mid-level management to support their union busting efforts.

Ruiz shared that “the organization effort did not start with [herself] or the partners of Citrus and Rowland, or even Starbucks workers. It’s the whole country. It’s an international struggle.” She continued, “The labor movement towards unionization is not isolated within Starbucks, it’s Amazon as well. These big corporations make billions, yet [they] are the ones taking advantage of their workers the most.”  

While partners faced harsh working conditions and inadequate benefits during a global pandemic, Starbucks saw record profits in the last quarter of 2021, exceeding pre-pandemic sales – with a net revenue of $29.1 billion. Starbucks paid its now-former CEO $21 million just in 2021 while partners made only $16 per hour. It is clear that Starbucks does not prioritize the very workers that generate its billions and only a collective workers struggle can force this multinational company to meet workers’ demands.

For store #5583 in Covina, Ruiz shared that elections are scheduled in the next 4-6 weeks. To support the partners at the forefront of the union struggle in this store, Ruiz encourages supporters to stop by and order “union strong” and “union yes” coffee.

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