Starbucks Red Cup Day back as Ohio stores take part in ‘largest-ever’ strike

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Red Cup Day at Starbucks is back on Thursday as employees of several central Ohio locations are taking part in a nationwide strike against the coffee company.

Starbucks Workers United, the union representing U.S. Starbucks employees, is launching its “largest strike ever” on Thursday to demand the Seattle-based company begin negotiating staffing and scheduling disagreements. The protest strategically falls on Red Cup Day, in which customers who order any size holiday beverage receive a free limited-edition red cup at participating stores.

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“Starbucks has not only refused to listen, they are making our situation more unbearable by unilaterally conducting promotional days with no increased staffing to compensate for the demand,” said Quinn Nutter, a shift supervisor at a Westerville Starbucks store. “Red Cup Day is one of their busiest days of the year, and we are striking to protest these unfair labor practices.”

The union said the following Columbus stores are participating in the “Red Cup Rebellion” on Thursday:

  • 88 E. Broad Street in Columbus

  • 1784 N. High Street in Columbus

  • 2136 N. High Street in Columbus

  • 1570 Olentangy River Road in Columbus

  • 1085 W. 5th Avenue in Columbus

  • 533 S. State Street in Westerville

  • 648 N. State Street in Westerville

The stores at 701 E. Spring Street in Oxford and at 1400 Euclid Avenue and 30225 Detroit Road in Cleveland are also on strike. Other locations that did not enter the union’s strike database could be taking part as well.

Workers United said Red Cup Day is Starbucks’ “biggest sales event of the season,” given customers who bring back their reusable cup for future orders can receive a $0.10 discount and rewards members can earn 25 bonus stars. The union alleges the day is “one of the most infamously hard, understaffed days for the baristas.”

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However, Starbucks said in a statement that the union has not agreed to meet for bargaining in more than four months and “remains ready to progress in-person negotiations with the unions certified to represent partners.”

“As we join together to uplift the holiday season and reflect on the past year, we again call on Workers United to fulfill their obligations and engage in the work of negotiating first contracts on behalf of the partners they represent,” the company said.

Still, Workers United filed an unfair labor practice charge earlier this fall with the National Labor Relations Board over Starbucks’ alleged refusal to bargain around promotion days, according to the union’s release.

Thursday’s strike comes six months after employees at Grandview Heights and downtown Columbus locations joined about 150 Starbucks stores on strike, accusing company management of banning workers from installing decorations celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

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Shenby G., a barista at the Grandview Heights store, claimed in June that corporate management ordered the location’s Pride flags to be removed. The move made employees feel “unsafe, attacked” and like the company was “taking a page out of the right-wing reactionary’s playbook,” they said.

Workers United alleged the removal of Pride decorations is a continuation of the company’s “anti-union campaign to intimidate workers and make them feel unwelcome in their own workplace.” More than 360 Starbucks nationwide have voted to unionize recently, including a location across from Ohio State University’s campus.

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