Starbucks employees walked out at hundreds of US stores on Red Cup Day

Nov 16 (Reuters) – Workers at hundreds of Starbucks ( SBUX.O ) stores walked off the job during a major promotional event on Thursday, demanding improved staffing and schedules, Workers United said on social media platform X.

The walkout comes on the heels of the coffee chain’s Red Cup Day event, during which Starbucks offers free red, reusable, holiday-themed cups to customers who buy coffee.

Starbucks said Thursday that its stores were “open” in the U.S. “A few dozen stores with some partners were on strike,” but more than half of those stores were open this morning, “serving customers.”

About a dozen workers picketed outside the Starbucks Astor Place store on New York University’s campus, chanting “no contract, no coffee” and other rhymes. Meanwhile, Astor Place continued to fill orders with NYU staff and students.

Red Cup Day is typically a major driver of store traffic, with visits to US Starbucks stores last year up 94% over the full-year daily average, Placer.ai data shows.

Workers United, which represents more than 9,000 Starbucks employees at about 360 US stores, said the event was one of the “most notoriously difficult, no-staff days” as drink orders piled up and employees resorted to abuse out of frustration. Customers with long waiting times.

Mary Boca, 22, an Astor Place, New York barista, said she would like to see higher wages and more employees at Starbucks.

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“I’ve heard our managers say they have to hire 12 people. At the peak, a lot of people have to leave.”

Boca’s Starbucks location doesn’t allow customers to tip, leaving them with an extra $100 on each check.

Edwin Palma Solis, 24, who works at Astor Place, said the inability of customers to tip at the store has prevented some employees from joining the place.

Starbucks has nearly 10,000 U.S. company-owned locations, and fewer than 3% of those stores are represented by a union, according to the company.

Last year, workers at more than 100 US company-owned Starbucks locations staged a one-day strike on Red Cup Day.

Earlier this month, Starbucks said it would raise hourly wages for its U.S. retail workers by at least 3% starting in 2024, a move criticized by employees, who called it “tone cheesy” given Starbucks’ 11% fourth-quarter revenue increase and recent wage increases. The auto workers won.

Reporting by Grant Wanak in Bengaluru and Ariana McLemore in New York City; Editing by Shinjini Ganguly

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Grant reports on the North American consumer and retail industry, covering a wide range of companies, from consumer packaged goods and restaurants to supermarkets and apparel retailers. Grant’s work on the website usually appears on the Retail & Consumer page of the Reuters Business section. He holds a Masters in International Relations and Area Studies and has previously worked as a research analyst.

Arriana McLymore is a New York-based reporter covering e-commerce, online marketplaces, alternative revenue streams for retailers and in-store innovation. He previously reported on telecom and legal business.

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