Thousands of unionized Starbucks workers walked off the job Thursday amid the coffee chain’s annual Red Cup Day in protest of the company’s various promotional days and persistent staffing issues.
Starbucks Workers United, which represents more than 9,000 workers at hundreds stores, said about 5,000 people were participating in the so-called “Red Cup Rebellion” at about 200 stores.
The union is demanding that Starbucks bargain over staffing and scheduling issues and turn off mobile ordering on promotion days like Red Cup Day that produce a “flood of customers,” often without additional staffing.
Red Cup Day, a yearly event in which Starbucks gives away free reusable holiday cups, is the company’s “biggest sales event of the season,” according to Starbucks Workers United. The union noted that it is also “one of the most infamously hard, understaffed days for the baristas that work them.”
A Starbucks spokesperson acknowledged in a statement Thursday that promotional days “change store patterns and traffic.”
“That’s why our retail leaders have the flexibility to build and adjust staffing schedules to reflect the unique and dynamic needs of each store — balancing store resources and expected customer demand to ensure partners are on the floor when they’re needed most,” the spokesperson said.
He added that schedules are created three weeks in advance with employees’ “availability and preferences at the forefront” and that stores are often “provided additional labor hours to augment staffing” for promotional days.
According to the coffee chain, workers at fewer than 100 stores were participating in Thursday’s strike, and a majority of those stores remained open and were serving customers.