Starbucks union creates $1 million fund to cover lost pay for striking baristas

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A protester waves a sign that read "unionize" near the Country Club Plaza Starbucks store where dozens of Starbucks employees and union supporters protested alleged anti-union tactics by the company Thursday, March 3, 2022.
Jill Toyoshiba | Tribune News Service | Getty Images

The union backing organizing efforts at Starbucks is creating a $1 million fund to cover lost pay for baristas who go on strike, giving workers more firepower in their fight to unionize.

The financial backing comes amid a nationwide unionization push that has already included workers at some Starbucks locations staging walkouts and strikes. In Boston, employees at a store went on strike Tuesday after having to work through a water leak. In Columbia, South Carolina, workers walked out for three days in protest of alleged anti-union retaliation.

Once it’s established, the strike fund could lead to more frequent and longer-lasting strikes since baristas won’t have to worry about the near-term financial repercussions.

“This strike fund will allow all workers to take the type of collective action necessary as they fight for a fair contract,” said Richard Minter, Workers United’s international organizing director.

Workers United is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, which represents roughly 2 million members. Its size provides access to crucial resources for Starbucks organizers, who are facing off against a coffee chain that reported $29.1 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year.

As of Tuesday, 100 Starbucks cafes have voted to unionize under Workers United, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Only 14 locations have voted against unionizing, giving the union a win rate of 88%. Roughly 120 other locations are waiting on their elections or are currently voting.

Starbucks and its interim CEO Howard Schultz are trying to curb the union push. Last month, the company announced it will hike wages for tenured workers and double training for new employees, but it won’t offer the enhanced benefits to workers at unionized cafes.

Starbucks is also facing allegations of union busting, which the company denies. Workers United has filed 175 complaints against the coffee chain for unfair labor practices, according to NLRB tallies. The labor board has issued nine complaints of its own against Starbucks.

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