By COLIN STAUB
First, there was one Eugene Starbucks on strike. Then there were two, three, and within a week, workers at all seven union stores in Eugene, Oregon, had walked off the job, picketing and rallying to protest Starbucks’ refusal to bargain, denial of benefits to union workers, and widespread nationwide anti-union activity.
It started with the store at 29th and Willamette, where workers began striking Aug. 8 to protest unfair labor practices. Workers at the Franklin & Villard Blvd. location joined in two days later. Those locations have been the most vocal and active since unionizing; each had already held previous strikes back in May.
Then on Aug. 10, after their manager threatened to fire them if they went on strike, some workers at the 3110 W. 11th Ave. store did just that. Organizers at the already striking stores brought signs and supplies to support the walkout, said Ian Meagher, a Franklin store employee who’s active with Starbucks Workers United. As the pop-up picket grew, more workers walked out, and the store closed. Workers who had the day off joined in on the picket line. Out of nowhere, Meagher said, it became the largest picket with the most Starbucks workers that’s been held in Eugene so far.
The unplanned picket got organizers thinking: Perhaps workers at the other union locations were also feeling strike-ready. Organizers canvassed the stores and held a meeting on Aug. 12 to gauge strike support and learned the others were just as ready.
“Once we had that meeting, within 24 hours we had every store in the district come on board to strike,” Meagher said. “We just really had an astounding mobilization.”
On Aug. 15, six of the seven union stores were closed, with workers rallying at the 29th and Willamette location. That morning, as organizers visited the closed stores to tell customers what was going on, they noticed a line forming at the cafe of a Barnes & Noble next to one closed Starbucks. Customers waiting in line were discussing the Starbucks strike, and organizers handed out pamphlets explaining why they were picketing.
“It’s definitely getting people’s notice,” Meagher said.
The next day, workers at the seventh union location, at 495 West 7th Ave., joined in.
A tally of NLRB election results shows there are 179 workers at the union stores that shut down during the strike.
The walkouts left just one standalone Starbucks in the city open on Aug. 16 and 17. Workers at that location voted to remain nonunion earlier this year.
At press time Aug. 16, workers were planning to return to work Aug. 18.