COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In brisk November weather Thursday morning, cars buzzed by about a dozen bundled-up unionized Starbucks workers who had formed a picket line outside the closed downtown store on East Broad Street.
The strike at the location blocks from the Ohio Statehouse is part of a broader, national effort by labor organizing collective Starbucks Workers United at stores across the country on a busy day for the global coffee chain. More than 100 stores are participating in the one-day demonstration, according to a store supervisor.
Thursday is Red Cup day at Starbucks, an annual event in its fifth year where the company gives away reusable holiday-themed plastic cups with each purchase of a seasonal drink.
But the 88 E. Broad St. location was shuttered for the day: A print-out sign attached to the door read “Closed: We’re on strike! Shut down by the partners of Starbucks Workers United.” Workers picketing outside held red, green, and white handmade signs that read “Red Cup Rebellion” and “Union Coffee Tastes Best.”
“It is notoriously a very large profit day for Starbucks,” striking store supervisor Damon Schnur said. “This is our way of withholding our labor on a very profitable day so that we can make a point and also educate the public about the anti-union tactics.”
Schnur’s store was the first to unionize in central Ohio. Last Monday, the Ohio State University location on High Street voted to become the third in central Ohio and the ninth in the Buckeye state amid
Schnur said that the striking East Broad Street workers were taking the time in the cold weather to also talk to regular customers and passersby about unionization efforts nationally, and also point them to local caffeine alternatives for the day.
In a statement, a Starbucks spokesperson said Starbucks was aware of demonstrations led by unionized workers scheduled at “a small number” of stores.
“In those locations where partners choose to participate, we respect their right to engage in lawful protest activity,” the spokesperson said in an email statement. “Though our focus has been, and continues to be, on uplifting the Starbucks experience for our partners and customers.”
The Thursday morning effort was the largest Starbucks Workers United has taken so far, according to a collective press release. More than 260 recently-unionized stores are represented by Starbucks Workers United, but the company and its unionized stores have yet to come to agreement on a contract.