Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

‘It’s just not enough’: Starbucks union workers form picket line protesting Red Cup Day

Leila Saidane

Chants, screams and honks filled the streets at 4:30 a.m. at the 24th and Nueces Street Starbucks, where a group of employees formed a picket line protesting for workers’ rights in a nationwide movement dubbed the Red Cup Rebellion on Nov. 16.

The annual protest occurred on Red Cup Day, one of the busiest days of the year for Starbucks, where the company gives away a free reusable cup with every order. This year, all but one of the 24th St. Starbucks baristas scheduled went on strike. 

They shouted, “No contract? No coffee,” asking Starbucks to amend their contract with Starbucks Workers United, the organization unionizing the store, to include health benefits, consistent schedules, paid time off and a workplace free from harassment or safety hazards. 

“It’s basically just protecting the workers from the company,” barista Swathi Nugehalli said. “We do (have a contract), it’s just not enough.” 

A Starbucks spokesperson said the union has not agreed to discuss contract bargaining in four months. 

“We remain committed to working with all partners to elevate the everyday, and we hope that Workers United’s priorities will shift to include the shared success of our partners and working to negotiate contracts for those they represent,” the spokesperson said. 

One of the signs reads, “Workers’ rights are human rights.” In the past couple of months, Starbucks faced charges accusing them of shutting down unionized stores or firing employees who support the union. 

Before the store unionized, an anonymous five-year employee said management fired another employee for showing up late. They said the real reason for her firing lies behind her blatant support for the union, as multiple union supporters in the store were fired or written up. 

“Union busting gone too far,” a five-year employee shouted in the front of the store. “Give us help behind the bar,” the group of protestors called back from the side of the store.  

The baristas referred to the constant understaffing the employees face, Nugehalli said. She said she worked with only three other employees the morning of the Texas football game against Kansas State, and the $16 baristas earn per hour does not equate to their workload. 

The union asked Starbucks for $20 per hour for baristas and $25.40 for shift supervisors, both with a 5% annual increase. 

This location joined the union in 2022 along with over 360 stores. Today, cars, garbage trucks and buses honked at the employees, and some pedestrians cheered along. The employees redirected some supporters to sign their pledge to act in solidarity with Starbucks Workers United. 

Nugehalli said customers usually form a line before opening on Red Cup Day, and the reusable cups run out by 8 or 9 a.m. Today, the lines stayed short, and managers on duty offered two reusable cups per person by 10 a.m. that morning. Due to understaffing, the store closed early at 1 p.m. after eight and a half hours of picketing. 

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About the Contributor
Leila Saidane, Photo Editor
Leila Saidane is a junior from Dallas, Texas, studying Radio-TV-Film and Journalism. Her words and photos have been published in The Texas Tribune, The Austin Chronicle, The Austin American-Statesman and The Dallas Morning News.