A skateboarder cruises west on University Boulevard, past the morning-quiet University of Arizona hangouts like Gentle Ben’s and the normally bustling Starbucks Coffee at the corner. The coffee shop sidewalk is now crowded with striking workers. The skateboarder raises his fist to cheers from the baristas.
“NO CONTRACT, NO COFFEE,” they chant.
Tucson’s only unionized Starbucks Coffee store was closed Wednesday, March 22 as workers went on strike to protest the company’s contracts. They joined unionized Starbucks workers striking nationally.
Starbucks employee Rara Rivera dances to music playing from a bluetooth speaker, holds a cardboard sign in red and black above her head and and calls for support through a bullhorn.
Workers at the store on University Boulevard and Euclid Avenue on the University of Arizona’s Main Gate Square voted to unionize in 2022.
The Tucson location is the only unionized Starbucks in Southern Arizona. There are eight stores in the Phoenix area where workers have unionized and 293 across the U.S.
Members of Starbucks Workers United were striking across the country ahead of the company’s shareholder meeting. They say Starbucks is retaliating against employees for recent union organizing and refusing to negotiate.
Starbucks has called any allegations of union busting or firing people over unionizing “categorically false.”
“Rather than publicizing rallies and protests, we encourage Workers United to live up to their obligations by responding to our proposed sessions and meeting us in-person to move the good faith bargaining process forward,” the company said in a statement responding to workers striking nationally.
On March 1, a federal administrative judge ruled that Starbucks committed “egregious and widespread misconduct demonstrating a general disregard for the employees’ fundamental rights.”
Judge Michael A. Rosas, in a New York case before the National Labor Relations Board, ordered the company to remedy a number of violations, including reinstate unlawfully fired workers and “reimburse workers for consequential harm they suffered as a result of Starbucks’s unlawful conduct.”
Starbucks worker Ivan Modesto chants with striking coworkers. He says that while company officials publicly say they respect their right to unionize, in practice, the employees are working without a contract and the negotiations keep getting canceled.
Modesto says workers don’t feel like they are getting a fair opportunity to negotiate their contract.