On Wednesday, March 22, Starbucks workers at over 100 stores across the country went on strike over recent hour cuts and the company’s continued refusal to bargain. Three stores in the Twin Cities participated: Saint Anthony, 300 Snelling in Saint Paul, and 47th & Cedar in Minneapolis. The one day strike took place the day before the company’s annual shareholder meeting. It also came a few days after Howard Schultz stepped down as CEO.
The three Twin Cities stores picketed from 7:00 to 11:00 AM, before converging at the 47th & Cedar location for a noon rally. Workers completely shut down the 300 Snelling store. At 47th & Cedar, the Store Manager and District Manager initially attempted to keep the drive-thru open, but the picket turned away nearly every car and they left after about an hour. Strong community support turned out throughout the day. Twin Cities DSA members maintained a consistent presence, and Macalester College YDSA mobilized to the 300 Snelling picket near campus. Workers from the Lunds & Byerlys across the street from the 47th & Cedar store, who are part of UFCW Local 663 and engaged in an ongoing contract fight to keep their union health care plan, showed their solidarity by bringing donuts to the rally. Soren Stevenson, a candidate for Minneapolis City Council in Ward 8, also showed up to support the strike. The biggest celebrity guest was Scabby, the giant inflatable rat set up for the rally.
The strike sent a clear message to incoming CEO Laxman Narasimhan that the union is here to stay and will keep fighting to bring him to the negotiating table. Workers were invigorated by the strike. Starbucks Workers United announced seven new stores filing for a union the next day. For many of my coworkers, this was our first strike. It provided a clear demonstration of our power to shut down the store if we take collective action. The fight for a contract at Starbucks will likely be a long and protracted struggle, but momentum is on the side of the workers.