By COLIN STAUB
Baristas and shift supervisors at two Starbucks locations in Eugene went on strike May 17 in protest of anti-union activity by Starbucks management, including the termination of three union organizers in the Pacific Northwest. Workers began picketing early in the morning at the 1895 Franklin Blvd. and 2830 Willamette St. stores. The strike comes after workers at both locations voted unanimously to unionize in April.
Ian Meagher, a barista at the Franklin Blvd. store, said workers have experienced anti-union harassment from management since they first petitioned for an election in January. Workers would be sent home for wearing pro-union shirts, he said. Meagher said managers never called workers out for dress code enforcement before the union campaign. The workers are also protesting company CEO Howard Schultz’s recent announcement that employees will receive wage increases and additional benefits only at non-union stores, a statement that was condemned as union-busting by 14 U.S. senators.
Strikers are calling on Starbucks to bargain in good faith with the unionized locations. The union locations have sent out “demand to bargain” letters and requested the company come back with dates to schedule bargaining sessions, Meagher said. The company has acknowledged receipt of the emails but has not replied beyond that.
“We’re trying to use this as well to push them to give us a more prompt response, not just wait the timer out as is often the strategy,” he said.
By mid-morning May 17, the Franklin Blvd. strike had drawn about 10 store employees, and Meagher said they planned to stay out the rest of the day. The store had not opened as of mid-morning.
“This strike is essentially, in coordination with other stores in the region, to show them we’re organized, and we’re not afraid to hit you in the wallet if you don’t comply with our demands and if you don’t play fair,” Meagher said.
Strikers at the Willamette Blvd. location planned to carry on two full days. Workers at a Starbucks at Cooper Point Village in Olympia, Washington, also went on strike this week.
UPDATE: Two Portland stores joined the strike as of May 18: 525 NE Grand Ave. and 12235 N Center Ave.