September 23, 2022

Starbucks workers in Biddeford go on strike

Starbuck workers picketed the Biddeford site on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Starbucks workers in Biddeford went on strike Monday to protest unfair labor practices they say they have faced since voting to join a union.

The Biddeford site was the first in Maine to join Starbucks Workers United, which formed last year to represent Starbucks workers across the country. Biddeford workers voted 9 to 3 in July to unionize. Workers at a Starbucks store in Portland have since taken steps to join the union.

Since the July vote, Biddeford workers say the company has engaged in unfair labor practices, including retaliation and reduced store hours. They picketed the store on Labor Day with signs reading “Pumpkin Strike Latte” and “People over profit.” The store was closed on Monday and the front door plastered with “wanted” posters of CEO Howard Schultz that said he was wanted “alive at the negotiating table”.

Ash Macomber, who led the union campaign at the store, said she faced retaliation when management threw away union flyers and removed workers’ rights posters she had hung in the break room. The store’s opening hours have recently been reduced – it now closes at 3 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. – and some workers have seen a sharp reduction in hours, she said.

“The anti-union campaign has gone on for too long now,” she said.

The front door of the Biddeford Starbucks location, closed on Monday, was covered with “wanted” posters for Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Five store workers were joined by half a dozen people from other unions who showed up in support of the strike. They cheered and waved their signs as passing cars and trunks honked their horns.

Stephanie Elliott, who works at the store and helped with the organizing drive, said she wasn’t surprised the company was retaliating against workers nationwide, but she didn’t necessarily think it was. would occur in Biddeford.

“I was a little shocked that this happened in our store because our store manager is amazing. It just doesn’t make sense,” she said, adding that she thought the false information and decision-making came from senior management.

In Portland, there was a sip-in at the Starbucks store in the Old Port on Monday to show solidarity with organizing workers.

Starbucks offices were closed on Monday and a spokesperson did not respond to an email with questions about the Biddeford workers’ allegations.

Since voting to unionize in July, workers at Biddeford Starbucks say the company has engaged in unfair labor practices, including retaliation and reduced store hours. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Members of Biddeford’s organizing committee mounted the union effort in the face of frustrations over ever-changing work schedules and fluctuating hours that caused many employees to leave. They say they were forced to come to work sick and received little support from management in their efforts to protect themselves from COVID-19. Many employees have landed second jobs because their pay, which they say starts just above $14 an hour at the Biddeford store, fails to keep up with the rising cost of living, according to organizers.

In the past year, 325 of Starbucks’ 9,000 US locations have run for union office and 230 stores have voted to unionize. Workers at Starbucks on the corner of Middle and Exchange streets in Portland told the company last month that they intended to unionize, but no vote has yet been taken.

Similar organizing campaigns have been launched at other major companies, including Amazon. In Maine, workers at Maine Medical Center, Bangor Daily News, Portland Museum of Art, Bates College, Waterville KVCAP, Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Transit and Kittery Water District voted to unionize at course of the last year.

Seattle-based Starbucks criticized the organizing efforts. The National Labor Relations Board filed 26 complaints against Starbucks, finding 97 separate charges encompassing 634 alleged labor violations.

Last July, the Labor Relations Board found that the company unlawfully retaliated against two Philadelphia baristas implicated in the organization. The board’s review showed that Starbucks was closely monitoring its public social media activity, trying to gauge employee support for organizing efforts, and illegally spying on protected conversations between one of the baristas and other employees. .

Starbuck workers picketed the Biddeford site on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A federal judge ruled Aug. 18 that the firing of seven workers in February constituted unlawful retaliation for their union organizing efforts and ordered the company to rehire the baristas. Starbucks appealed the decision and obtained a stay of the order pending appeal.

On August 25, the Labor Relations Board filed a lawsuit alleging that Starbucks is illegally withholding benefits and raises from unionized stores. The board demands back pay for all affected workers and forces Schultz to read and distribute a statement of apology and assert union workers’ rights.

Starbucks recently accused NLRB agents of helping Workers United win by manipulating the voting process in a union election in Kansas City, Kansas, Reuters reported. Council oversees union elections in the United States


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