Labor Notes | August 22, 2022
Starbucks barista was Aneil Tripathi’s first job, at 17. Now 19 and a shift supervisor, he helped organize a union in his store in Anderson, South Carolina. He and his co-workers, whom Starbucks calls “partners,” have been on strike twice this summer—an experience Tripathi calls emotional and fun.
Since the Starbucks Workers United campaign launched last fall, workers have won union authorization elections at 220 stores, and struck at least 60. The company has retaliated harshly—closing some stores, firing dozens of union leaders, claiming interference by the National Labor Relations Board, and calling for a moratorium on mail-in elections.
Starbucks also barred union stores from receiving long-awaited benefits to be implemented August 1, provoking several strikes.
Jonah Furman from Labor Notes spoke with Tripathi about the joys of the picket line, Starbucks’ retaliation, and how a store manager got so rattled by a collective action that she accused the workers of kidnapping her. This text has been condensed and edited for clarity. –Editors
We had our vote count May 31. I remember everything because I was so excited. I was expecting maybe two or three no votes, but we were the first unanimous store in the South.
It was fine for a week. We were proud. We were wearing our Starbucks Workers United shirts; we put up a sign saying “Welcome to your unionized I-85 Starbucks.”
Our store manager said. “You can’t wear those shirts, it’s against Starbucks dress code.” I said, “That’s illegal. Under the National Labor Relations Act we’re allowed to wear union apparel.” She says, “I’m just telling you what I was told. The next person to wear one will be written up.”
So we stopped wearing them for a while; we were unsure of the write-up process. I said, “What do you think of a direct action?” We went on strike June 10.Read More »