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Starbucks employees in Clarksville join national weekend strike

Workers at a Starbucks in Clarksville, Indiana, voted in favor of unionizing.
J. Tyler Franklin
Workers at a Starbucks in Clarksville, Indiana, voted in favor of unionizing.

Workers at Indiana's only unionized Starbucks store say the company has failed to negotiate collective bargaining contracts in good faith and engages in union-busting activity.

The frustrated Clarksville employees went on strike Friday in tandem with a hundred other stores nationwide.

Barista and organizing committee member Daniel Willoughby said he wants the three-day strike to send Starbucks a message.

“Losing that much profit, I hope it shows them that we are the ones who are actually in control. They couldn't be where they are without us now,” Willoughby said.

In past statements, Starbucks called allegations of bad faith negotiations “completely untrue” and told employees they shouldn’t unionize because management can better address their needs without union interference.

“We're striking because Starbucks refuses to bargain with us,” said Mila Wade, organizer and barista. She has worked at the Clarksville store for just over a year. “We've also faced a lot of really awful conditions at our own store.”

Wade alleges Starbucks’ lawyers from Littler Mendelson showed up to the one and, so far, only negotiating session in "pajamas" and then left before negotiations began.

“I was the most professionally dressed I could be. We were all there to bargain in good faith and get down to business,” Wade said, adding she had to take time off work to attend the negotiations. “I knew walking into it, we all knew walking into it, that nothing was going to happen. Starbucks was just doing it to say that they were doing it, but at no point were they intending to actually bargain with us.”

The lawyers told Wade they were leaving because some members of the union’s national bargaining team attended via Zoom. As far as she knows, they have yet to set up a follow-up bargaining session.

Neither Starbucks nor Littler Mendelson responded to requests for comment in time for publication.

In statements posted online, Starbucks defends its refusal to negotiate with anyone present over live-video because “the NLRB prohibits any party from requiring recordings or transcripts of contract negotiations … and neither party can control whether the audience outside the room viewing the broadcast will choose to record the proceedings.”

The Clarksville workers unionized in September to ask for better wages, secure benefits and better treatment from management.

READ MORE: Clarksville Starbucks files to unionize, first to do so in Indiana

“We had a manager we all liked and when she left and a new manager came in, we were basically told that they were trying to replace everyone in our store with people from their former store,” Wade said. “And that we were all replaceable, again that they were a dictator, not our manager. They started treating everyone who had been here poorly.”

Wade said new management stopped promotions, forced a vomiting, sick employee to work under threat of losing their job and fired a young barista who was relying on the job to help pay college tuition.

Workers United, the union representing Clarksville and over 270 other Starbucks locations nationwide, haslodged multiple federal complaints alleging surveillance, threats and other coercive, illegal actions at union stores.

“Since we won our election, we have had periods where we have four or five managers here in the store at one time, whereas before, we would see a manager once every three weeks or something,” Wade said. “They pull people aside, they tell them lies about the union … And they're just watching us endlessly to find any single thing that they can reprimand us for.”

National Labor Relations Board officials alleged in an August complaint that the company withheld benefits from 261 stores, including Clarksville, to “discourage” unionization.

READ MORE: Feds allege Starbucks withheld benefits to 'discourage' Clarksville, other states' union workers

Barista Daniel Willoughby said he has also seen increased manager presence at the store.

“We've never had, like, a moment of peace since we unionized,” he said.

But Willoughby said he’s glad to have the union because “it helps us make Starbucks a better place to work. It's better for new people to come in and not have to deal with awful things that all of us have experienced.”

Contact reporter Adam at arayes@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.
Copyright 2022 IPB News

Adam Yahya Rayes

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