Starbucks has blamed the workers for the lack of a contract.
At least 363 Starbucks stores in 41 states have voted to unionize in the past two years. The company, which has opposed the unionization effort, has not yet negotiated a contract with any of the stores that voted to unionize.
The campaign has been contentious.
Regional offices with the National Labor Relations Board have issued 111 complaints against Starbucks for unfair labor practices, including refusal to bargain, according to the Associated Press.
The striking workers are affiliated with Starbucks Workers United, which said it expected more than 5,000 Starbucks employees to take part in the walkouts. The action was coined the “red cup rebellion,” because the strikes were held the same day as Starbucks’ annual giveaway of reusable red cups, an event that is typically one of the year’s busiest days.
About 30 stores also staged walkouts on Wednesday, according to Associated Press.
Starbucks this week downplayed any potential impact of the strike, saying it would occur at a “small subset” of the company’s 9,600 company-owned U.S. stores.
“We remain committed to working with all partners, side-by-side, to elevate the everyday, and we hope that Workers United’s priorities will shift to include the shared success of our partners and negotiating contracts for those they represent,” Starbucks said in a statement.
Workers at the Ansley Mall Starbucks and Jonesboro voted in mid-2022 to unionize. However, the last bargaining session for the Ansley Mall workers was more than a year ago, said Marks-Rivera.
For its 2023 fiscal year, which ended Oct. 1, Starbucks reported its revenue rose 12%, to a record $36.0 billion.
The company has about 400,000 employees. Workers, who are currently paid at least $15 an hour, have complained about scheduling and insufficient staffing, as well as pay. They like what they do, and want the company to succeed, but they want to be treated better, Marks-Rivera said.
“We at Ansley have the highest ‘customer connection score’ in the district and they act as if we are not performing well,” she said. “We want the company to be successful, just not to the detriment of the workers.”
In January, workers will receive a 3% pay hike, she said. “For some people that’s just 60 cents (an hour). That is not going to change lives.”
Workers are asking that baristas be paid at least $21 an hour, Marks-Rivera said.
Last month, Starbucks sued Workers United, saying a pro-Palestinian post on a union account damaged its reputation and demanding that the union stop using the name Starbucks Workers United. Workers United responded with its own lawsuit, saying Starbucks defamed the union by suggesting it supports terrorism and violence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.