Illinois Starbucks Union Organizers Join Nationwide Strike as More Locations Join Labor Effort | Chicago News

Illinois Starbucks Union Organizers Join Nationwide Strike as More Locations Join Labor Effort | Chicago News

(WTTW News)

(WTTW News)

Workers at six Starbucks locations in Chicago and the suburbs are joining a nationwide wave of three-day unfair labor practices strikes targeting the megacoffee giant, organizers say.

Employees at the unionized cafes will walk out of work Friday through Sunday to protest alleged anti-union tactics and the company’s closure of organized Starbucks stores.

“Our facility is striking in solidarity with unionized facilities across the country that have been illegally shut down for the heinous ‘crime’ of fighting for a better job,” Starbucks worker and organizer Melissa Lee-Litowitz said in a statement. “In the face of blatant reductions in working hours and unnecessarily harsh crackdowns on union dress codes, we have little option to address these injustices other than to go on strike.”

One of the unionized locations the company had closed was at Bryn Mawr and Winthrop Avenues in Edgewater. A Starbucks spokesman said it was due to ongoing safety issues, but organizers and their supporters say it’s a tactic to weaken the union.

“We respect the right of our partners to engage in lawful protest activities,” a Starbucks spokesman said in a statement. “Our focus remains on all partners and our commitment to continue working side-by-side to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone. Looking at our partners, we will continue to emerge and stand ready to negotiate in good faith and have urged Workers United to do the same.”

The four striking city locations are at Irving Park Road and Ashland Avenue in Lakeview, Ridge Avenue and Clark Street, and Broadway and Devon Avenue in Edgewater, and the Lincoln Village shopping complex in North Park. They are joined by Starbucks at 620 Northwest Highway in the northwestern suburb of Cary and the Willow and Whitsun Roads location in the northern suburb of Glenview.

“In addition to refusing to negotiate with us and continuing to exploit hours just before the holidays, (we) cannot condone unfair labor practices: either those that directly affect our business or those that affect our partners,” Edgewater Starbucks -Staff and organizer Teddy Hoffman said in a statement.

“It will continue to not tolerate any illegal anti-union behavior if it ever turns out to be true. No Starbucks affiliate has been disciplined or fired for engaging in legitimate union or labor activities. All partners have the right to have their voices heard when it comes to union matters,” the Starbucks spokesman said. “A partner’s involvement in union activities does not absolve it from complying with the policies and procedures common to all partners.”

Earlier this month, that Glenview location voted unanimously to unionize, as did an Elmhurst Starbucks on York Street and Industrial Drive by a vote of 18-5. This emerges from the unofficial vote numbers of the organizers.

Also in December, employees at Starbucks at the Old Orchard Mall in Skokie and Main Street and Chicago Avenue in Evanston announced plans to unionize.

The three-day strike comes a week after organizers at Starbucks in the US marked the one-year anniversary of the first successful union election at a coffee shop in Buffalo, New York. And it comes a month after a handful of Chicago-area Starbucks locations were part of a nationwide walkout that coincided with the company’s popular Red Cup Day holiday promotion.

In November, a regional director of the National Labor Board sought a statewide injunction that would bar Starbucks from engaging in “unlawful conduct (that) threatens to chill a union organizing campaign.”

“We urge the court to grant the injunction quickly so that … all Starbucks employees nationwide can effectively exercise their right to unionize,” NLRB Region 7 director Elizabeth Kerwin wrote in the court filing.

Starbucks has repeatedly denied claims of anti-unionism and violations of the law.

Contact Nick Blumberg: [email protected] | (773) 509-5434 | @ndblumberg

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