The strike was timed to fall on “Founder’s Day,” a holiday the coffee chain invented to honor three-time CEO Howard Schultz. Schultz announced Monday that he was stepping down from his post two weeks early. He has been replaced by Laxman Narasimhan.
“We are on strike today … to show Starbucks that we will no longer take the hour cuts, the lack of guaranteed hours. We will no longer settle for anything less than a real seat at the table, and also to show them that we have the power,” a woman named Lola, who works at a Starbucks store in St. Paul, Minnesota, told More Perfect Union.
Starbucks employees took to the streets in more than 40 cities. The first coffee store unionized in Buffalo, New York, almost a year and a half ago, and union efforts have prevailed at hundreds of other locations. At least 421 Starbucks locations nationwide have launched unionization efforts, 287 of which have been successful. Another 39 are currently ongoing.
But over the past year, Starbucks has shuttered multiple locations, some of which were either unionized or reportedly forming a union. The company fired more than 100 union leaders, some of whom were reinstated only after a federal judge ordered Starbucks to do so. And when Starbucks representatives finally met with union members in October, after months of delays, they walked out after just a few minutes because they disliked that some union members had called in over Zoom.
Schultz came under particular fire during his third tenure as Starbucks CEO for alleged union-busting tactics. His retirement announcement came a little more than a week before he was due to appear in front of a key Senate labor committee.
He had agreed to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, just before the committee voted to subpoena him over the union-busting allegations. Schultz will still have to appear in front of the committee, even though he is no longer Starbucks’s CEO.