Orlando Starbucks workers continue to face union-busting behaviors from the boss, as workers nationwide picket for Valentine's Day

Orlando-area Starbucks workers are still waiting for Starbucks to come to the bargaining table.

click to enlarge Orlando Starbucks workers continue to face union-busting behaviors from the boss, as workers nationwide picket for Valentine's Day
photo illustration by Daniel Rodriguez

Workers at more than 100 union and non-union Starbucks locations across the United States this Valentine’s Day picketed to bring greater attention to understaffing in Starbucks stores, which they say is driven by their employer cutting workers’ hours.

Starbucks Workers United, a labor union representing thousands of Starbucks workers from coast to coast, says this reduction in hours has caused some workers to fall behind on bills, and has put them at risk of losing certain job benefits, like tuition coverage and trans healthcare benefits, which require regularly working at least 20 hours a week.
“Partners across the country are hurting; in unionized and non-unionized stores, Starbucks is slashing our hours and making partners face lost healthcare, food insecurity, and even homelessness,” Jacklyn Gabel, a Starbucks worker in Santa Cruz, California, said in a statement.

“It’s time Starbucks stops treating us like we’re disposable and starts treating us like people. That needs to start with them coming to the bargaining table at the 270 unionized locations and negotiating with workers in good faith,” said Gabel.

Clay Blastic, a shift supervisor at Central Florida’s only unionized Starbucks, told Orlando Weekly that workers at their location weren’t planning to participate in the Valentine’s Day picket, but that they nonetheless stand “in solidarity with our other stores.”

Blastic’s store became the first Orlando-area Starbucks to unionize last year. Today, six Starbucks locations in Florida are unionized, but only a handful across the U.S. have begun the process of bargaining an initial contract — a process that takes over 400 days, on average.
Starbucks workers say their employer is stalling, even though the company made a big deal of sharing publicly that they’d begin bargaining last fall.

This is true here, too. Blastic, and his co-workers at the East Mitchell Hammock & City Plaza Starbucks location in Oviedo, told Orlando Weekly in December that Starbucks had yet to come to the bargaining table with them to work on reaching a collective bargaining agreement (i.e. a union contract), as is mandated under federal labor law.

Blastic, who’s a union leader at his store, confirmed that’s still true today.

He also confirmed that Starbucks has failed to return his store’s credit card tipping option. Last year, Blastic said that option was initially rolled out at his location in November (as it was in other, specifically non-union Starbucks stores nationwide) before being revoked in December — just in time for the holidays.

A spokesperson for Starbucks Corp. told Orlando Weekly this is because credit card tipping is “subject to the collective bargaining process for union-represented stores.”

“We are listening and learning from the partners in these stores as we always do across the country,” the spokesperson said. “From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us, and that conviction has not changed. We remain committed to our partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone."

The spokesperson, however, could not confirm when bargaining with the Oviedo Starbucks workers would begin, or whether a date has been scheduled.

Since December 2021, over 270 Starbucks stores in 36 states have successfully unionized, according to Starbucks Workers United (a campaign of the national labor union Workers United), and over 300 have filed petitions for union elections.

But the company’s aggressive anti-union campaign, informed by an array of “union avoidance” lawyers, has slowed down the stunning momentum of the unionization campaign, which saw locations filing left and right for union elections last year.

This exclusion of union Starbucks stores from the credit card tipping option rollout, in addition to other potentially illegal tactics, has gained national attention. It’s a move that union staff and workers alike say is an effort to curb unionization efforts.

“One of the first public demands that we made last fall, when our campaign launched, was for credit card tipping,” Starbucks Workers United told CNN last year. “This is a clear case of union workers pressuring Starbucks to improve working conditions for all Starbucks baristas.”

Employers increasing pay or meeting other demands of workers during union drives is a classic union- busting strategy. Last year, Trader Joe’s — whose CEO in 2020 called unionization efforts a “distraction” — offered company-wide pay raises within weeks of Trader Joe’s workers in Colorado launching a union campaign.

While seemingly insignificant, Blastic said the tipping option for Starbucks workers can add $2 to $3 extra an hour to a workers’ pay. For workers making anywhere from $15 (for baristas) to $19 per hour (for shift supervisors) to start, that can mean a lot in a region that’s increasingly unaffordable, even for those making above minimum wage.

Starbucks’ decision to revoke their credit card tipping infuriated workers at the Oviedo location, who protested the move by joining a national walkout of over 1,000 Starbucks workers on Dec. 17.

A reduction in hours, as well as other retaliatory tactics — such as firing worker-organizers and shutting down unionized stores with questionable explanations — has put Starbucks on the hot seat with the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that enforces federal labor law.

Just earlier this year, a regional director for the NLRB filed a complaint stating that Starbucks committed "substantial" violations to defeat a union drive at a Starbucks in Estero, Florida.

But there’s strength in the union yet, which has helped to galvanize a labor resurgence, even as the overall rate of union membership in the U.S. continues to fall.

This Valentine’s Day-themed picket by Starbucks Workers United comes just one day after the NLRB ruled that Starbucks illegally threatened and fired two Starbucks worker-organizers in Philadelphia, in a dispute that predated the launch of the national Starbucks Workers United campaign. The federal agency has ordered Starbucks to “cease and desist” from illegally surveilling and retaliating against workers — and, significantly, has ordered Starbucks to offer the two fired workers reinstatement and back pay.

This Valentine’s Day, Tesla workers in Buffalo, New York — the site of the first Starbucks Workers United victory — also announced their own union drive with Workers United.

Coming soon: Orlando Weekly Daily newsletter. We’ll send you a handful of interesting Orlando stories every morning. Subscribe now and don’t miss a thing. Follow us: Google News | NewsBreak | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

About The Author

McKenna Schueler

News reporter for Orlando Weekly, covering general news, local government, labor, housing, and other social and economic justice issues. Previously worked as a news anchor for WMNF in Tampa and a freelance journalist with works published in In These Times, Strikewave, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, and Facing South...
Scroll to read more Orlando Area News articles


Join Orlando Weekly Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.