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Seattle Starbucks stores join 3-day strike as union battle intensifies

Three Seattle Starbucks cafes joined a three-day nationwide walkout that began Friday, an escalation in the union’s nascent push to secure contracts for the newly organized stores.

Workers at stores in downtown Seattle and Madison Park joined those elsewhere who expect to picket 100 stores across the U.S. in the next three days.

The workers accuse Starbucks of closing union shops and denying union demands for good faith bargaining and fair treatment. Workers at the Special Reserve Roastery, on Minor Avenue and Pike Street, will be picking through the weekend; those from the Madison Park store will continue to peddle on Saturday; while those working at the Fifth Avenue and Pike store plan to strike Sunday.

The action will be the longest strike in the history of Starbucks Workers United, which marked its one-year anniversary last Friday. Last month, eight Washington stores, including the Fifth and Pike location, joined 1[ads1]10 U.S. stores for a one-day walkout on Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink.

“We demand that Starbucks and (CEO) Howard Schultz end union-busting immediately, come to the bargaining table in good faith and protect the lives of the employees they claim to care so much about,” said Katie Merritt, shift. supervisor at the Madison Park store.

Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull said the workers’ claims that Starbucks has targeted unionized stores for closure and refused to bargain in good faith are misleading. The work stoppages, he said, disrupt the “Starbucks experience.”

“Despite these delaying tactics, we remain focused on working together and engaging meaningfully and directly with the union to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone, and we encourage Workers United to uphold its promises to partners by moving the bargaining process forward, ” Trull said. Starbucks refers to workers as partners.

Merritt said workers at the Madison Park store have been denied the opportunity to negotiate or sign a contract. Unionized workers’ hours are cut during one of the busiest seasons of the year and they are denied credit card tipping, which non-union stores have implemented, she said.

“Although the Madison Park Starbucks is known as Howard Schultz’s home store, we are just like any other Starbucks,” Merritt said. “If Howard’s own neighborhood store baristas are being treated this poorly, it only speaks to the injustices that Starbucks partners are experiencing across the country.”

In Seattle, the union and Starbucks are waiting for a National Labor Relations Board judge to rule on whether the company’s decision to add benefits exclusively to non-union stores violates federal labor law. Workers United is also protesting the closing of union shops.

Six stores, including the city’s first unionized store at Broadway and East Denny Way, closed in Seattle. Starbucks claimed intractable safety issues threatened the welfare of customers and workers at those stores. But the union claimed the store closure was retaliation.

Of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-operated U.S. stores, 261 have unionized since the end of last year, according to the NLRB.

Starbucks Workers United has filed at least 446 unfair labor practice charges against the company, including allegations that Starbucks fires labor organizers and refuses to bargain. Starbucks has filed 47 charges against the union, including allegations that Workers United violated bargaining rules by recording sessions and posting the footage online. The union claims there was no recording.

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