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Unionized Pittsburgh Starbucks workers take part in "Red Cup Rebellion" strike on Red Cup Day

Starbucks workers hold strike on Red Cup Day
Starbucks workers hold strike on Red Cup Day 02:30

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Folks who usually grab a Starbucks during their workday, may not have been able to get one Thursday. 

Thousands of Starbucks workers across the country, including in the Pittsburgh area walked off their jobs as a part of a national strike, picketing outside locations like in Central Oakland. The strike came on Red Cup Day, considered one of the company's busiest days of the year.

Starbucks workers like Casper Borowitz are tired, demanding the coffee giant respect their right to a union and bargain a fair contract.

Borowitz works at the Amos Hall location on Pitt's campus.

"Personally, at my store, we're the fourth busiest store on the entire East Coast and we saw upwards of 500 drinks an hour, with six people on the floor. That's simply not realistic," Borowitz said.

To get the company to listen, workers at six unionized locations in the Pittsburgh area walked out, leaving customers to find signs at stores like, that in Bloomfield, saying they're temporarily closed.

Instead, these workers picketed outside six non-unionized locations including in Central Oakland in what they're calling a "Red Cup Rebellion," on Red Cup Day, when Starbucks gives out free reusable cups to customers who order holiday drinks.

Earlier this fall, workers filed a charge to the National Labor Relations Board regarding the company's refusal to bargain around promotion days. Workers say these cause an influx of disappointed customers who often have to wait longer for their orders because the company doesn't bring in additional staff.

"We have been asking for mobile orders to be turned off during these high volume days and promotional days because we simply can't keep up with the business," Borowitz said.

In a statement to KDKA, Starbucks said it would possibly impact a "small subset" of its 9,600 company-owned stores. It also said the union has been refusing to schedule bargaining sessions for five months  and it hopes the union's "priorities will shift to include… negotiating contracts for those they represent."

"Starbucks is running out of time and community support will just push that time closer," Borowitz said.

Workers United expected more than 5,000 workers at more than 200 stores in the U.S. to take part in the strike.

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