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Philly DSA Members at 12th & Walnut Starbucks on June 14, 2022. Photo: Brittany Valentine/Al Día News
Philly DSA Members at 12th and Walnut Starbucks on June 14, 2022. Photo: Brittany Valentine/AL DÍA News

Advocates host ‘Sip-in’ at 12th and Market Starbucks to boost latest Philly unionization campaign

The effort, led by the Philly Democratic Socialists of America, ran counter to the massive coffee chain’s union-busting efforts.

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For the past seven months, Starbucks baristas across several states have been extra busy, and not just with making cold brews and frappuccinos. 

On Wednesday, June 14, Philadelphia Democratic Socialists of America (Philly DSA) held a ‘Sip-in’ at the 12th and Walnut location to raise awareness about the most recent unionization campaign at the location and the union-busting tactics afflicting the baristas organizing for a better workplace. 

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., members of Philly DSA provided a friendly, supportive presence for the workers, and handed out pins and literature about the cause to customers.

Customers who attended the sip-in were encouraged to order an easy-to-make beverage using “Union Strong” as their name, tip well and in cash, and write a note on the store’s bulletin board. 

In their first letter to Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz, workers from 12th and Walnut said that they want to feel proud to work at Starbucks again, because at the moment, that is not the general consensus. 

“As it stands we are met with unfair and unsafe work conditions. Our pay rates fail to compete with the rising cost of living. We regularly have our hours cut which puts our benefits, and our livelihood, and our families financial security at risk. It is our hope that you recognize the framework for forming a union is performance driven through the lens of humanity,” the letter read. 

Starbucks employees in Seattle, Utah, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Georgia and more have been mobilizing with an astonishing level of success. 

Since December 2021, when two stores in Buffalo, New York successfully voted to unionize, more than 150 stores across the country have followed suit. Pennsylvania now has five unionized locations, and four of them are in Philly. 

Last month, these four locations celebrated their election victories with a press conference outside of the 20th and Market location. 

The baristas were joined by Councilmembers Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks, and Patrick Eiding, President of AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the U.S. 

But not all the Philadelphia Starbucks locations that launched a union campaign have been as successful. The 20th and Callowhill Street store, which was one of the first to file a petition, lost its union election. 

Now, workers at the 12th and Walnut location have filed a petition to unionize, but organizers are frustrated and overwhelmed with the aggressive union-busting tactics. This is now the seventh Starbucks store in the city to attempt unionization.

On April 13, workers from this store officially announced their goal of joining Starbucks Workers United, the collective of Starbucks partners around the country organizing to unionize their workplaces. 

In their June 3 letter to Schultz, baristas from 12th and Walnut laid out their grievances, which included wages that do not match inflation, lack of COVID-19 safety precautions, issues with scheduling, training and staff shortages, and more. 

“We can do better, and to do that, senior leadership needs to do a better job of listening to the people on the front lines of this company, and then following up with meaningful improvements,” the letter read. 

Their union election will take place on Tuesday, June 21. But as the campaign moves forward, workers at this location are facing union-busting tactics from management. Their hours have been cut, and workers have been facing constant intimidation, among other things. 

Last month, Alexandra Rosa, a shift supervisor at the 20th and Market shop, detailed some of these tactics that she and her fellow organizers faced before they won their election. 

“Our hours have been cut and continue to decline since filing our petition to unionize, forcing many to consider seeking other jobs. We continue to be forced to attend mandatory corporate meetings, where misinformation about Workers United and bargaining is spread,” Rosa wrote in The Philadelphia Inquirer

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