Workers from the Lake Lansing Road and Stoddard Avenue Starbucks locations participated in a strike Thursday in a bid to convince the corporation to begin bargaining for a contract in good faith.
Dunkin' Donuts coffee cups in hand, the workers gathered outside of the store locations chanting, "Don’t cross the picket! Support workers today!" and ‘No contract, no coffee!’.
The location on Stoddard was closed for the day, while the Lake Lansing location remained open, with the strikers urging customers not to go inside.
The strike falls on Red Cup Day – Starbucks’ most profitable day of the year. The promotion attracts thousands of customers looking to receive free plastic, red cups with any purchase of a seasonal drink. One of the busiest days of the year is also one of the most hectic for Starbucks workers, who hope that the loss of profits from their strike will draw attention to their cause.
“If we can cut into that profit and bring attention to it, and show that we have the power to do a change and cut into Starbucks’ profit, they will hopefully listen to us,” Lake Lansing Starbucks worker Brenna Naughton said.
Both the Stoddard and Lake Lansing locations voted to unionize in June 2022 under the Workers United Labor Union. By striking, these locations are joining a nationwide protest of over 100 Starbucks franchises attempting to bargain with the corporation.
Lily Barrett, a contact action team representative for the Lake Lansing location, said Starbucks is legally required to negotiate in good faith for a contract with the union.
“That’s part of the deal when we elect a union,” Barrett said. “They have not come to the table. So, we are striking over the unfair labor practice of refusing to bargain a contract.”
The protests specifically in the Lansing and East Lansing areas are a reaction to a meeting recently held between workers and Starbucks representatives. The workers said that they felt that their needs were not being heard in the meeting.
Stoddard Starbucks worker Mia Misener said that the representatives met with them for three minutes after the workers waited six hours to meet with them.
“They refused to look at our contracts,” Misener said. “We are trying to show that our union has strength and that actually means something. We’re not going to be serving their coffee if they are not going to bargain with us.”
The workers had a list of 25 proposals that they were looking to discuss with the representatives, said Misener. Issues include wage negotiations, dress code, seniority, job descriptions and disciplinary actions.
One of the main issues that Starbucks workers face is understaffing, according to Stoddard Starbucks worker and neuroscience sophomore Nicole McClish.
“They say that we never have enough labor hours, but we are told that we make a lot of money to get the labor," McClish said. "They still refuse to give us the proper staff, so we are struggling and always constantly getting yelled at by customers because of the low staff.”
One of Starbucks’s core values is to create a comfortable "third place" for customers between home and work. Misener says that this is not possible under the current conditions of the stores.
“Starbucks definitely talks a lot about being a 'third place' and always wanting a comforting place where you can talk to your barista, get to know people, have a nice comforting place to hang out,” Misener said. “It’s not like that when you work here. You have so much stuff that you have to do and you’re not properly supported.”
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