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Workers at several Colorado Starbucks locations "strike with pride," alleging long hours, low wages, banned decorations

Colorado Starbucks workers go on strike, saying company banned Pride decor
Colorado Starbucks workers go on strike, saying company banned Pride decor 00:23

Update: Starbucks responded to CBS News Colorado's request for comment on June 28. See their statement below.

Workers at some unionized Starbucks locations in Colorado held "unfair labor practice strikes" this week.

Copter4 flew over a couple of different locations where those strikes were taking place. Monday, they were on strike in Denver and Boulder. Over the weekend, they went on strike in Westminster and Superior.

The workers want Starbucks to negotiate a contract and the National Labor Relations Board -- the federal agency that supervises union elections for labor union representation and investigates unfair labor practice allegations -- is investigating the company for failing to bargain with unions in good faith.

RELATED: Westminster Starbucks votes to unionize, labor board sides with union leader

Starbucks workers have alleged long hours, unfair treatment from management and low wages, among other reasons for wanting to unionize.

Liza Nielsen is a shift supervisor and union leader at the Coalton Road and Rock Creek Parkway location in Superior and previously worked at other Starbucks locations across the state.

"Starbucks has over 1,500 unfair labor practice violations filed against them," she said, "and not one of us has a contract. Starbucks refuses to come to the bargaining table with us and while we are in that contract limbo and have been for the last year, there's just been egregious union-busting; they have slashed our hours, prevented us from raises that other locations that are not unionized have received, they withheld our benefits, they will not let us have credit card tips."

Nationwide, more than 300 Starbucks locations have unionized.

From June 23 to June 30, over 3,000 Starbucks workers at over 150 stores across the country would "strike with pride," alleging the company told workers they couldn't put up Pride month decorations, according to Starbucks Workers United, a national Starbucks union representing many unionized of the company's workers.

"Throughout the month of June, which is Pride month, they have taken down multiple Pride decorations around the country and further have denied that they were doing that," Nielsen said.

The workers' demands, according to Nielsen, are as follows:

  1. The Right to Organize through a fair process without interference, intimidation, or reprisals
  2. A Strong Foundation of Rights, including just cause and respect for seniority
  3. Health and Safety with a commitment to racial justice, zero tolerance of sexual harassment and a platform for proactively resolving safety issues
  4. Base wage for all workers of at least $20 per hour, annual raises of 5% plus a cost of living adjustment, and a bonus of $2,000 for workers on their 10-year anniversary of employment
  5. 100% employer-paid healthcare for part and full-time employees, improved access to mental health care, and reinstatement of transgender benefits/care
  6. Hours guarantee for full-time, part-time, and occasional work classifications, a fair process to obtain schedules based on seniority and without discrimination, and a right to similar schedules week after week
  7. Faster accrual of sick and vacation time, expanded access to medical, parental, and personal leave, and the right to take leave for union work
  8. Immediate access to new benefits withheld from union stores during organizing campaign, such as credit card tips, inclusive apron sizes, expansion of dress code, and additional training.

The union organizing Starbucks workers said Monday that the strike closed 21 stores over the weekend, including the company's flagship Reserve Roastery in Seattle, the Associated Press reported.

Starbucks Strike
Jessica Garcia, Erik Garcia and Meara White hold signs in support of Starbucks workers as they watch marchers in the annual Seattle Pride Parade, Sunday, June 25, 2023. Lindsey Wasson / AP

In a statement sent to CBS News Colorado Wednesday, a Starbucks spokesperson denied the allegations that it took down Pride decorations and said the strikes had a "limited" impact on stores, saying, on average, 12 stores were closing due to strikes per day since June 23 and that many of them were not closing at the same time.

Similar to previous statements, Starbucks said union claims lacked merit and criticized union tactics, generally.

"Workers United continues to spread false information about our benefits, policies and negotiation efforts-a tactic used to seemingly divide our partners and deflect from their failure to respond to bargaining sessions for more than 200 stores," the Starbucks spokesperson said. "We apologize to our customers who may experience an inconvenience at these locations and encourage customers to find any of our more than 9,000 stores open nearby using our store locator available online or through the Starbucks mobile app." 

And in a letter to employees posted last week on Starbucks' website, CEO Laxman Narasimhan noted that a Pride flag is currently flying over the company's Seattle headquarters, just as it has in past years, the Associated Press reported.

"We want to be crystal clear: Starbucks has been and will continue to be at the forefront of supporting the LGBTQIA2+ community, and we will not waver in that commitment," Narasimhan said. "As such, we strongly disapprove of any person or group, seeking to use our partners' cultural and heritage celebrations to create harm or flagrantly advance misinformation for self-interested goals."

In March, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz testified in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, "unequivocally" denying allegations that the company broke the law.

Administrative judges with the National Labor Relations Board have ruled that Starbucks has violated workers' rights "hundreds of times" in several states.

The workers' strikes are ongoing and will continue at least through this week.

The response has been mixed, from Nielsen's perspective. 

"I would say for the most part, the community is receptive and supportive and curious, and we're happy to answer questions, so there's been a lot of great discourse," she said. "We have definitely had upset from our district manager and some other store managers in the area. They are definitely not happy with us, but we didn't expect that they would be."

"We're on strike! We demand an end to the unfair treatment of LGBTQIA+ partners," a Starbucks union in Boulder tweeted Monday.

"No contract, no coffee," Nielsen said. "The union is strong and we're excited to continue the campaign."

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