The ‘Red Cup Rebellion’ Is Here as Starbucks Workers Launch Massive Strike ~ Nov. 17, 2022

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Starbucks workers around the country are on strike today in what they’re calling the “Red Cup Rebellion.” 

Today is the busiest day of the year for the coffee giant. On Red Cup Day, the company gives away the reusable cups to customers who buy holiday-themed drinks like the peppermint mocha, or fall-themed beverages such as pumpkin spice lattes. People are super into it: Some stores have run out of cups well before the end of the day during previous Red Cup Days. 

But for some Starbucks employees, it’s also the worst day of the year. And as workers at unionized stores step up their pressure campaign to force the company to finally negotiate with them, they’re going on strike, demanding bargaining sessions and increased staffing during one of the company’s busiest periods of the year. Carissa Frihart, a Starbucks shift supervisor, was traumatized by her first Red Cup Day. Frihart had been working at a store in Hopewell, New Jersey, for six months, and said the store’s Red Cup Day was “pure chaos.” At one point, she said, customers were waiting up to an hour for their drinks. She came home from work that day with bruises, she added, a product of rushing to keep up with the demand and not having the space to move around at work.“Red Cup Day is mentally and physically abusive,” Frihart, who is now a shift supervisor, told VICE News. “It sounds ridiculous talking about coffee, but imagine so many people yelling at you about how you’re not doing anything right and they’re not getting their drinks fast enough.” Workers on the Starbucks Reddit have described it as “the worst day of your year” and “absolutely unbearable.”“Reading the words ‘red cup day’ sent chills down my spine with a side of ptsd,” one former worker posted. 

Starbucks Workers United is launching the strike in response to what they say are Starbucks’ “union-busting tactics and refusal to bargain”; last month, bargaining at several stores across the country began and promptly ended when the company refused to allow workers to sit in on the bargaining sessions via Zoom. 

“You cannot be pro-LGTBQ, pro-BLM, pro-sustainability, and anti-union,” Michelle Eisen, a barista at a Starbucks store in Buffalo who participated in one of those sessions, said in a statement from the union. “This Red Cup Day, we’re organizing for a voice on the job and a true seat at the table.”

At least 111 stores are participating in the strike, the union representing Starbucks workers said, and the union is even handing out their own branded red cups on the picket line.

Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull told VICE News in an email that “in those locations where partners choose to participate, we respect their right to engage in lawful protest activity.” Trull also said the company is “willing and continue to urge the union to meet us at the bargaining table to move the process forward in good faith.”

Even though hundreds of Starbucks stores have unionized this year, collective bargaining has gone nowhere: The company’s representatives refused to bargain with employees over Zoom last month, and walked out of a session almost as soon as it began. Workers on the one-day strike are demanding that the company bargain with them, and increase staffing levels. 

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