Throughout the U.S., Starbucks has been a controversial topic ever since its unionization swept the nation.
Over 100 locations have and are in the process of unionizing and are demonstrating its effectiveness through protest. Two weeks ago, workers walked out and engaged in protest during the nationwide "Red Cup Rebellion" on Nov. 17.
The Starbucks at Poplar and Highland, Memphis's only unionized Starbucks, joined the recent protest to stand against Starbucks's union-busting tactics by Starbucks' management. As a result, what is usually a day for customers to receive free red cups became a platform to voice displeasure and bring awareness to Workers United, the parent union representing Starbucks Workers United.
The day was filled with chanting as passing traffic yelled out in support of the union. In addition, pedestrians and patrons of Starbucks were spotted outside the store, showing their support.
"Red Cup Day is normally a day Starbucks uses to get the most money they can," said union leader and Memphis Seven Beto Sanchez. "They try to give out free red cups to incentivize customers. At the same time, though, while this company is trying to talk about record profits, we still have the same problems before we started to unionize."
In February of this year, seven workers were fired due to their unionization efforts. The store has been through a rocky battle that recently reached a U.S. Court of Appeal's ruling, reinstating those fired. However, challenges persist.
Sanchez said that negotiations have not progressed, as Starbucks has refused to push its relationship forward.
"We still have Starbucks not wanting to bargain with us, that has been way overdue, and that is, unfortunately, happening to stores across the country still," said Sanchez. "When the day came, they were not there, or they did show up, and they left within two minutes, three minutes."
Other workers shared their thoughts regarding the store's goals during the protest.
"We are striking over the general UOPs that Starbucks has committed across the country, firing multiple union leaders, closing unionized stores, and not treating them the same as non-unionized stores," said shift supervisor and Memphis Seven Lakota McGlawn.
"We are trying to get Starbucks to know and management to know that they can't just keep treating us like we are indisposable," said McGlawn. "Long term, we really just want Starbucks to be held accountable for the labor laws they are violating."
The strike came as a surprise to everyone in the Memphis area, including management. However, the store has a long battle ahead of itself and has mentioned that the union will go the extra mile to ensure the fairness to all workers.
The store is in talks with other Starbucks locations to help spread its unionization efforts
"I am looking forward to other stores in Memphis joining us, so that way, they themselves are protected by the union," said McGlawn. "We want them to know they are supported by us as well."
In addition, three days after the strike, the store was subject to more coverage after discovering mold issues within its ice machine. Not much was discussed about the situation, but workers, who wished not to be named, said that management was aware of the situation and did not resolve or immediately shut down the store.
The issue was addressed by management, who ensured no safety hazard was present. However, the store was closed on the 20th after officially finding that the machine contained mold. Several store employees followed the situation with a protest, speaking against management.
The mold situation, however, has been resolved quickly, and the store is continuing its normal operation.