Since last fall, the union effort has increased its capacity to exert pressure on the corporate mega-giant—including in a March 22 national strike.

By Saurav Sarkar, The Progressive Magazine

Stepping up their pressure against Starbucks, a multinational company currently worth $113 billion, workers at 113 of its U.S. outlets went on strike March 22. In Seattle, the company was finally forced to the bargaining table in earnest with some workers, a major step forward, according to representatives of Starbucks Workers United (SBWU).

workers on strike to unionize starbucks and amazon

The strikes were organized by SBWU, a barista network attached to Workers United, an affiliate in turn of SEIU, one of the biggest unions in the country. But the barista movement’s young, diverse, LGBTQ+-heavy workforce and their momentum have lent it a vibrancy that established unions have struggled to achieve in recent decades.

At a Starbucks in southern Long Island, a racially mixed group of baristas gathered on the sidewalk near busy Sunrise Highway during the March 22 strike and beseeched drivers to “Turn around! Turn around!” from the drive-through. Every so often, a car would reverse, and cheers would go up from the workers and their supporters. Most customers, however, crossed the picket line.

In between chants like “Union workers on strike! Dunkin Donuts up the street!,” several baristas and supporters talked to The Progressive about the walk out. They told stories of mice, mold, and maggots in the store, and how they had to work shifts with half as many coworkers as they needed. They also mentioned puddles of mystery fluids on the store’s floor, a lack of gloves for cleaning bathrooms, and casual racism from managers, all of which drove them toward the union.

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