Starbucks union workers across the country, including employees at the Crocker Park store in Westlake, went on strike for three days in December 2022. Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

Starbucks workers at the Crocker Park store are scheduled to go out on strike this morning as part of a national action by the chain’s unionized workers.

The unionized workers are highlighting the fact that the federal government continues to cite the company for engaging in unfair labor practices.

The strike at the store in the upscale shopping center in the City of Westlake, 15 miles west of Cleveland, is slated to begin at its 6:30 a.m. opening, according to a spokesperson for the local Workers United union representing the workers. They said the action at this store, one of about 100 stores nationally participating in the strike, is scheduled to continue throughout the weekend. The strike was purposely timed to occur the weekend before Christmas, which includes the busiest shopping days of the year, the spokesperson said. The store has between 10 and 15 workers, they said.

Dennis Weber, a barista at the Crocker Park store for about a year, is among them. He said since workers voted to join a union earlier this year, managers are writing up workers more frequently, often for things they did not do. He said more disturbing is the increasing tendency of the company not to give workers enough hours to qualify for health insurance.

Starbucks union workers across the country, including employees at the Crocker Park store in Westlake, plan to strike through the weekend. Credit: Jeff Haynes / Signal Cleveland

“They’re not giving us the shifts, so people are not meeting the minimum requirement to maintain and retain their health benefits,” he said.  “So let’s say you need to work 18 hours a week to get your benefits, they’re giving people 17.5 hours. 

Weber said this makes employees feel like the company is forcing people to quit because they need better healthcare.

“We feel very underappreciated, very frustrated and just like we are not worth much to the company — just somebody that can be thrown aside,” he said.

Starbucks says that employees have a right to protest and that the company doesn’t tolerate retaliation against union members, according to a company spokesperson.

“We respect our partners’ [employees’] right to engage in lawful protest activity,” they wrote in an email to Signal Cleveland. “ 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.”

“There will continue to be no tolerance for any unlawful anti-union behavior, if ever found to be true,” the email states. “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.”

Starbucks Workers United members are striking to say loud and clear that they’ve had enough. The entire Greater Cleveland labor movement stands with them.

Dan O’Malley, North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor

Workers United said that despite workers at nearly 300 stores nationally voting to join the union, they are still without a contract. The union has filed many charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), on behalf of workers throughout the country, allegeding that Starbucks has engaged in unfair labor practices. The NLRB has often ruled in the union’s favor. For example, in August,  the NLRB won an injunction requiring Starbucks to rehire seven workers that the company had unlawfully fired at a store in Memphis, Tenn., in connection with union organizing.

The NLRB has agreed to hear a Cleveland-area case next year, the union spokesperson said. They declined to offer any details about the case.

Workers at five local Starbucks have voted for unions

This year, workers at five Cleveland-area stores have voted to unionize. In addition to the one at Crocker Park, workers have voted in favor of unions at  the downtown Starbucks on West 6th Street, the store at the corner of Mayfield Road and Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, the store on Clifton Boulevard near the Cleveland-Lakewood border and the Starbucks at University Circle. 

Workers at the Crocker Park store are the only ones scheduled to strike today, the union spokesperson said.

Dan O’Malley, who heads the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, raised concerns about how Starbucks treats unionized workers.

“The company’s flagrant acts of retaliation, intimidation, and harassment of its own workers proves their complete disregard for federal labor law and good-faith bargaining,” he wrote in an email to Signal Cleveland.  “Starbucks Workers United members are striking to say loud and clear that they’ve had enough. The entire Greater Cleveland labor movement stands with them.”

Workers at the Crocker Park and Cleveland Heights stores also went on strike Nov. 17. They were part of a national strike that included more than  110 Starbucks stores and 1,000 baristas, according to a union news release. The strike was held on Red Cup Day, a high-volume day for Starbucks, in which the coffee chain marks the beginning of the holiday season by giving away reusable red cups. The union called that strike the  “Red Cup Rebellion.”

Workers United is calling today’s action the “Double Down Strike.” 

“Despite winning 270 union elections with over 7,000 union workers, Starbucks continues to wage an aggressive union-busting campaign against workers, which includes firing over 150 union leaders across the country, permanently closing union stores, and bullying & threatening union leaders,” states the Workers United news release. “The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has already issued over 45 Complaints against Starbucks encompassing over 900 violations of federal labor law. “

Economics Reporter (she/her)
Olivera, an award-winning journalist, covered labor, employment and workforce issues for several years at The Plain Dealer. She broke the story in 2013 of a food drive held for Walmart workers who made too little to afford Thanksgiving dinner. Olivera has received state and national awards for her coverage, including those from the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing (SABEW). She was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Olivera believes the sweet spot of high-impact journalism is combining strong storytelling with data analysis.