Illinois Starbucks Union Organizers Join Nationwide Strike as More Locations Join Labor Effort

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Workers at six Starbucks locations in Chicago and the suburbs are joining a nationwide wave of three-day unfair labor practice strikes aimed at the mega-coffee retailer, organizers say.

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Employees at the unionized coffee shops are set to walk off the job Friday through Sunday, protesting alleged union-busting tactics and the company shutting down organized Starbucks stores.

“Our location is striking in solidarity with the unionized locations nationwide that have been illegally closed for the heinous ‘crime’ of fighting for a better workplace,” Starbucks worker and organizer Melissa Lee-Litowitz said in a statement. “In the face of flagrant hour cuts and needlessly harsh crackdowns on dress coding union apparel, we are left with little other option to address these injustices but to strike.”

One of the unionized locations the company shut down was at Bryn Mawr and Winthrop avenues in Edgewater. A Starbucks spokesperson said it was due to ongoing safety issues, but organizers and their supporters say it was a tactic to weaken the union.

“We respect our partners’ right to engage in lawful protest activity,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement. “Our focus remains on all partners and our commitment to continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone. With our partners in mind, we will continue to show up and be ready to bargain in good faith and have urged Workers United to do the same.”

The four city locations going on strike are at Irving Park Road and Ashland Avenue in Lakeview, Ridge Avenue and Clark Street as well as Broadway and Devon Avenue in Edgewater, and in the Lincoln Village shopping complex in North Park. They’re joined by the Starbucks at 620 Northwest Highway in northwest suburban Cary and the location at Willow and Pfingsten Roads in north suburban Glenview.

“On top of refusing to bargain with us, and the continued gouging of hours right before the holidays, (we) cannot stand for any unfair labor practices: Neither those that directly affect our store, nor those that affect our fellow partners,” Edgewater Starbucks worker and organizer Teddy Hoffman said in a statement.

“There will continue to be no tolerance for any unlawful anti-union behavior, if ever found to be true. No Starbucks partner has been disciplined or fired for engaging in lawful union or labor activity. All partners have the right to make their voice heard when it comes to union issues,” the Starbucks spokesperson said. “A partner’s involvement in union activity does not exempt them from adhering to the policies and procedures that apply to all partners.”

Earlier this month that Glenview location voted unanimously to unionize, as did an Elmhurst Starbucks located at York Street and Industrial Drive by a vote of 18-5. That’s according to unofficial vote tallies shared by organizers.

Also in December, employees at the Starbucks in Old Orchard Mall in Skokie and at Main Street and Chicago Avenue in Evanston announced their plans to unionize.

The three-day strike comes one week after Starbucks organizers around the U.S. marked the one-year anniversary of the first successful union election of a coffee shop in Buffalo, New York. And it comes one month after a handful of Starbucks locations in the Chicago area were part of a nationwide strike timed to coincide with the company’s popular “Red Cup Day” holiday promotion.

In November, a regional National Labor Board director sought a nationwide cease and desist order that would bar Starbucks from engaging in “unlawful conduct (that) threatens to chill a union organizing drive.”

“We are asking the Court to swiftly grant the injunction so that … all Starbucks employees nationally can effectively exercise their right to engage in union activities,” NLRB Region 7 Director Elizabeth Kerwin wrote in the court filing.

Starbucks has repeatedly denied claims of union-busting and violations of the law.

Contact Nick Blumberg: [email protected] | (773) 509-5434 | @ndblumberg

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