Starbucks workers start 3-day walkout at stores across Minnesota, U.S.

people protesting with signs in front of Starbucks
Starbucks workers hold signs and chant during the "Unfair Labor Practice Strike" on Friday in St. Paul. Starbucks workers around the U.S. are planning a three-day strike starting Friday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Updated: 12:21 p.m.

Starbucks workers around the U.S. are undergoing a planned three-day strike starting Friday as part of their effort to unionize the coffee chain's stores.

More than 1,000 baristas at 100 stores — including two Twin Cities locations — are planning to walk out, according to Starbucks Workers United, the labor group organizing the effort. The strike will be the longest in the year-old unionization campaign.

The St. Paul store, at 300 Snelling Avenue South, is one of six unionized stores in the state. The other store striking is on Silver Lake Road in St. Anthony.

Starbucks workers in St. Paul say they don’t know how many hours they will work ahead of their schedules. Barista Lola Rubens said she and others at the unionized store “repeatedly” have their hours cut.

"Starbucks has made a name for itself being flexible with its hours but it also needs to ensure that it is giving the people it promises the hours that they need. So that we can live. So they we can earn money,” Rubens said.

She earns $15.81/hour, 31 cents above the current hiring rate. She wants $19 an hour.

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"My life would be so much easier if I made that much money every hour,” Rubens said.

St. Paul Starbucks shift supervisor Graciela Nira earns $21.17 an hour and wants to see hours guaranteed, too.

"More than a wage increase, I would like to see Starbucks's implement some guaranteed hours,” Nira said. "Starbucks likes to say that they have industry standard wages, but we don't have any security for what that looks like in terms of an annual salary."

Rubens also said customers can’t tip baristas on their credit cards at her union store. Non-union stores allow customers to tip on their credit cards, she said.

Starbucks workers and supporters hold signs
Starbucks workers and supporters hold signs during the "Unfair Labor Practice Strike" on Friday in St. Anthony.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

This is the second major strike in a month by Starbucks' U.S. workers. On Nov. 17, workers at 110 Starbucks stores held a one-day walkout. That effort coincided with Starbucks' annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink.

More than 264 of Starbucks' 9,000 company-run U.S. stores have voted to unionize since late last year.

Starbucks opposes the unionization effort, saying the company functions better when it works directly with employees. But the company said last month that it respects employees' lawful right to protest.

Tori Tambellini, a former Starbucks shift supervisor and union organizer who was fired in July, said she will be picketing in Pittsburgh this weekend. Tambellini said workers are protesting understaffed stores, poor management and what she calls Starbucks' "scorched earth method of union busting," including closing stores that have unionized.

woman holding protest sign next to people holding coffees
Hannah Fogarty, a Starbucks worker, holds a sign during the walkout in St. Paul on Friday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Workers United noted that Starbucks recently closed the first store to unionize in Seattle, the company's hometown. Starbucks has said the store was closed for safety reasons.

Starbucks and the union have begun contract talks in about 50 stores but no agreements have been reached.

The process has been contentious. According to the National Labor Relations Board, Workers United has filed at least 446 unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks since late last year, including that the company fired labor organizers and refused to bargain. The company, meanwhile, has filed 47 charges against the union, among them allegations that it defied bargaining rules when it recorded sessions and posted the recordings online.

protest signs placed in front of a coffee shop
Starbucks employees who do not participate in the strike continue their work while the strike continues outside.
Kerem Yucel | MPR News

So far, the labor disputes haven't appeared to dent Starbucks' sales. Starbucks said in November that its revenue rose 3 percent to a record $8.41 billion in the July-September period.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment.