EAST LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Starbucks will be celebrating its 25th Red Cup day with a new stylish, red reusable cup to commemorate the new holiday menu and drinks, but more than 100 stores across the country will not be open to customers.
Stores throughout the country and seven in Michigan, have closed their doors to customers as Starbucks employees strike against the Seattle based coffee company for numerous reasons.
“But [the strike] is not against [management] it’s against corporate,” East Lansing Starbucks Barista and “Strike Captain” Lydia Rotkowski said, who has worked for the company for a year and a half.
Fellow Barista Caleb Christensen, who will celebrate a year with the company next month, agreed that the strike was not against local management but aimed at higher ups in the Starbucks company.
“If there’s one thing we want to make clear: this has nothing to do with our immediate supervisors, obviously I love all of our shift supervisors,” Christensen said, “We all love all of our shift supervisors and we think that our store manger is outstanding, she has such a positive attitude – this is absolutely nothing against her, and everything to do with the people who are at least a few steps above her.”
Christensen said that he believes that the employees of the 1141 East Grand River Starbucks deserve from the Corporate sphere the respect that they give one another.
“Specifically in the contracts we’re looking to have more consistent scheduling, better wages, seniority, job security, and also just the resources and equipment we need to be successful to meet all these standards,” Shift Supervisor Emily Grasel and three year veteran said.
But strength in numbers is something the branch is also fighting for according to Rotkowsk.
“One very big thing that we’re very much pushing is being staffed,” Rotkowski said, “With these huge holiday season coming up – we have these huge mobile orders coming in, we have so many cafe orders from college students coming in, we have the drive thru backed up all the way to the road.”
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Staffing shortages force employees to wear multiple aprons in order to fulfill all of the needed positions.
“So it makes it really hard to be motivated when you don’t have a person in every position,” Rotkowski, “So you have to be multiple positions but you also have to talk to these customers that are mad at you and don’t have their caffeine addiction at the time, and it gets really really hard and debilitating for just a barista.”
The East Lansing Starbucks are two of the 264 unionized stores across 36 states with 343 stores having filed for unionization. In the largest labor action since 2021, Starbucks workers at more than 100 U.S. stores say they’re going on strike Thursday. The Starbucks on 1141 East Grand River is officially striking for the entirety of the day, as is its partner Lake Lansing and Kerry Street Starbucks.
Employees of the 1141 East Grand River Starbucks have been striking since opening – 5:30 am – and some plan to stay until closing at 9:00 pm. Of the 28 staffed employees at the branch, 12 attended the strike throughout the day, with the goal of having 18 at its largest point.
Christensen is currently a student at Michigan State University and studying Pre-Law with aspirations of attending law school in his last year of school.
“A lot of my personal focus is in civil cases, unions,” he said, “Honestly I want to have a future helping people like us – people who are under-represented, people who don’t really get the type of representation that they deserve.
This is obviously a first step [the strike] in all of our journeys and I don’t think that anybody here today plans on working here the rest of our lives, but we at least want to be treated like humans while we’re here.”
Rutkowski said there are many students and several other organizations that have helped to make the strike possible, including their own union Starbucks Workers United, who supplied the store with clothing in support of the strike.
For the many regular and new customers who would have been able to enjoy the Starbucks product, the strikers also have a clear message for them.
“Shock value. That’s what I want mainly,” Rutkowski said, “A big shock factor to Starbucks as well…a shock value to people as well, because they’re going to see us and wonder what are they doing because this makes me angry. So looking into that and thinking more about that, but mainly we’ve had so many customers that have come in that are so supportive.”
Grasel and Rotkowski agreed that the wage is a lot better than it used to be, but isn’t where it should be. Their store experienced an increase of $13 to $15 for Baristas, but alleged that because the branch is unionized, the increase in pay was delayed.
“Hopefully this will be the last day we have to [strike],” Christensen said, “Hopefully they take us seriously after this and we don’t have to keep people from their caffeine kick after this.”