Workers at 6 Chicago-area Starbucks plan walkouts through Sunday

The strikes are expected at stores that have unionized, targeting four Chicago locations and sites in Cary and Glenview.

SHARE Workers at 6 Chicago-area Starbucks plan walkouts through Sunday
The Starbucks at 1601 W. Irving Park Road in the Lake View neighborhood was closed on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022 after workers walked out.

The Starbucks at 1601 W. Irving Park Road in the Lake View neighborhood was closed on Friday after workers walked out. It is one of several Starbucks locations whose workers are on strike.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Workers at six Chicago-area Starbucks on Friday began a series of short-term strikes expected to last through Sunday.

The walkouts are at stores whose staffs have voted to unionize with Workers United, part of the Service Employees International Union. The baristas are protesting Starbucks’ closures of several stores around the country, including one in Chicago, whose workers elected to join the union.

They also said Starbucks has committed unfair labor practices, including firing some employees active in union organizing.

“We are very happy to have gotten strong support from our community,” said Shane Schmidt, a shift supervisor at the 1601 W. Irving Park Road location, where workers picketed Friday and plan to do so again Saturday and Sunday. “So many of our regular customers listened to us and said they will avoid Starbucks until Monday,” he said.

He said the company kept the store open by calling in workers from other stores and at least one corporate executive.

A Starbucks spokesperson said the company respects workers’ right to protest and that they can return to the job anytime.

The spokesperson said: “It is unfortunate that Workers United continues to spread misleading claims while disrupting the Starbucks Experience that our partners and customers have come to love and expect. Despite these delay tactics, we remain focused on working together and engaging meaningfully and directly with the union to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone, and we urge Workers United to uphold their promises to partners by moving the bargaining process forward.”

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Hours and days for the planned walkouts vary, according to union leaders. The walkouts began Friday at the Irving Park Road store and at 5964 N. Ridge Ave. Workers United organizer Madison Lisle said the Ridge store never opened Friday.

Other walkouts are expected either Saturday or Sunday at 6350 N. Broadway and 6075 N. Lincoln Ave. and at two suburban locations, 620 Northwest Highway in Cary and 2760 Willow Road in Glenview.

A closed Starbucks, located at 1601 W. Irving Park Rd. in the Lake View neighborhood on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.

A closed Starbucks, located at 1601 W. Irving Park Rd. in the Lake View neighborhood, was closed on Friday.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The strikes coincide with similar job actions at nearly 100 other Starbucks nationwide. Workers previously have staged one-day walkouts at a few of the coffee shops.

“In the face of flagrant hour cuts and needlessly harsh crackdowns on dress coding union apparel, we are left with little other option to address these injustices but to strike,” said Melissa Lee-Litowitz, a worker at the Glenview store, in a statement released by the union.

Workers United has conducted a national organizing drive targeting Starbucks. The National Labor Relations Board, which runs union elections, said that as of the end of November, workers at 264 stores have joined Workers United, while those at 58 stores voted against the union. The coffee chain has more than 9,000 stores in the U.S.

In the Chicago area, the union has won seven store elections and lost four. It won an election at an eighth store, at 1070 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., that the company subsequently closed.

Collective bargaining, done on a store-by-store basis, has started at some locations. “By the end of 2022, we will have appeared in-person for more than 75 single-store bargaining sessions and we continue to engage meaningfully and directly with the union,” the Starbucks spokesperson said.

The union said the NLRB has issued at least 45 complaints against Starbucks alleging violations of federal labor law. In turn, the company has filed some complaints against the union.

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