Thousands of unionized Starbucks workers walked off the job on Thursday during the company's annual Red Cup Day as a protest against ongoing staffing concerns and various promotional events. Organized by Starbucks Workers United, which represents more than 9,000 workers across 360 stores, approximately 5,000 participants took part in the so-called "Red Cup Rebellion" across 200 stores.
The union's primary demands include addressing staffing and scheduling issues and disabling mobile ordering during promotion days like Red Cup Day, which often leads to overwhelming customer demand without sufficient additional staff. Red Cup Day, known as Starbucks' "biggest sales event of the season," involves the distribution of free reusable holiday cups. It is also notorious for being challenging and understaffed for baristas.
In response to the walkout, a Starbucks spokesperson acknowledged that promotional events do alter store patterns and traffic. The company claimed that retail leaders have the flexibility to adjust staffing schedules based on the unique needs of each store, ensuring sufficient staff are present during peak hours. The spokesperson added that schedules are created three weeks in advance, accounting for employee availability and preferences. Starbucks also noted that additional labor hours are allocated to address staffing issues on promotional days.
According to Starbucks, less than 100 stores were affected by the strike, with the majority remaining open to serve customers. Despite the ongoing labor dispute, the company aims to find a resolution that addresses workers' concerns while maintaining smooth operations for their customers.