Starbucks workers at three Greater Cleveland stores are scheduled to join a one-day national strike Thursday morning, protesting that unionized workers have not received a contract, the union said.

Workers at the Crocker Park store in Westlake, one on Royalton Road in Strongsville and the University Circle store on Euclid Avenue are striking, according to Starbucks Workers United, which is part of the Workers United union. The strike is taking place on Red Cup Day, an annual Starbucks promotional event just before the start of the Christmas shopping season, when the coffee store chain gives away reusable red cups. The union is referring to the action as the “Red Cup Rebellion.”

Red Cup Day is one of the busiest days of the year and usually one of the highest sales days for Starbucks. This is to show them that we want to bargain. This is a day that can make our point by helping their pockets to hurt.

Cameron Stefan, a shift supervisor at the Crocker Park store.

Cameron Stefan intends to be among the strikers. He is a shift supervisor at the Crocker Park store, which is one of seven unionized Starbucks stores in Greater Cleveland.

“I decided to participate on Thursday, and helped organize my store to do so, based on the fact that Starbucks hasn’t come to the table to bargain with us,” he said. “Red Cup Day is one of the busiest days of the year and usually one of the highest sales days for Starbucks. This is to show them that we want to bargain. This is a day that can make our point by helping their pockets to hurt.”

Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull said the company hasn’t refused to bargain.

“Starbucks remains committed to enhancing the partner experience and offering everyone who wears the green apron a bridge to a better future,” he wrote in an email to Signal Cleveland. “We’re encouraged by the progress we’ve seen towards first contracts at stores where union representatives have approached bargaining with professionalism and an actual interest in discussing partner priorities with our bargaining committees.”

So far, no unionized Starbucks store in the country has received a contract. The National Labor Relations Board’s regional offices have docketed 680 open or settled unfair labor practices charges against Starbucks in 39 states and Washington, D.C., according to the NLRB. A dozen of these charges are in Ohio.

In May 2022, the West 6th Street store downtown became the first Starbucks to vote in a union. In addition to the Crocker Park, Royalton Road and University Circle stores, there are three other unionized Starbucks in Greater Cleveland: the store at the corner of Mayfield and Lee roads in Cleveland Heights, the store on Clifton Boulevard near the Cleveland-Lakewood border and the Garfield Road location in Aurora. The union said more than 360 stores nationwide have unionized.

Lexi Hunter works at the Starbucks at a kiosk at SouthPark Mall in Strongsville. Though the store isn’t unionized, she said she is among its workers who will “strike in solidarity with union stores.” She said they believe many of the unionized workers should have received contracts. 

“I think it’s just telling of just how abhorrent Starbucks’ corporate actions are and how they are not really open to compromise,” she said. “They don’t necessarily view us as equals.”

Among the issues the union wants to negotiate are having adequate staffing and predictable scheduling that ensures workers will get enough hours. The union said that Starbucks often doesn’t schedule enough employees to work on high traffic days such as Red Cup Day.

“On Red Cup Day, drink orders pile up and are abandoned, lines are out the door, and Starbucks workers are left to handle angry customers who have had to wait much longer than usual for their beverages and food all while trying to make complicated holiday specialty beverages as fast as possible,” the union said in a news release. ”When the supply of red cups runs out, customers get disappointed and often take their anger out on workers.” 

Trull said the company doesn’t have such staffing and scheduling issues. 

“Notably, our store schedules are created three weeks in advance with our partners’ availability and preferences at the forefront and our stores are often provided additional labor hours to augment staffing in support of planned promotional days,” he wrote.  

Note: This article has been updated to reflect that workers at the University Circle store announced Thursday morning that they had joined the strike. The article has also been updated to include comments from Starbucks.

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.