© 2024 Louisville Public Media

Public Files:
89.3 WFPL · 90.5 WUOL-FM · 91.9 WFPK

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact info@lpm.org or call 502-814-6500
89.3 WFPL News | 90.5 WUOL Classical 91.9 WFPK Music | KyCIR Investigations
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Stream: News Music Classical

Some Louisville baristas went on strike Monday. Here’s why.

 People march and protest outside Sunergos Coffee's South Fifth Street location. One person holds a white sign that says 'Fair Contract Now!' in black letters.
Morgan Watkins
Louisville Public Media
Baristas at local Sunergos and Starbucks stores went on a one-day strike on Monday. Their union representatives say neither company is negotiating a fair contract for workers. More than 50 people gathered outside a Sunergos shop in downtown Louisville that afternoon to protest.

Baristas at several local Sunergos and Starbucks shops say their employers are refusing to negotiate a fair contract with their unions. In protest, they went on a one-day strike Monday.

More than 50 people rallied in downtown Louisville Monday afternoon and marched together to Sunergos Coffee’s South Fifth Street store.

They picketed outside, holding signs with messages like “Tips are not a living wage!” and “No contract, no coffee!”

“We’ve been on strike since 6 a.m. … It’s very exciting to be fighting for not only barista rights but all workers’ rights,” said Clove Harrington, who works at Sunergos.

Workers at five Sunergos stores and seven Starbucks shops in the Louisville and Southern Indiana area have unionized. The unions also have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging their employers are responsible for unfair labor practices.

Razija Mehinovic works for Sunergos and said, “The reason that I’m out here is because we haven’t gotten very far in the process, and we’ve been met with a lot of resistance and unwillingness to negotiate.”

Devon Crawley – a barista at Sunergos’ Fifth Street location – said they decided to protest in this way because other tactics they’ve tried haven’t worked so far.

“We made very little progress in actual negotiations and just with getting ownership/management to come to the table and talk to us at all,” Crawley said.

Crawley said it’s a misconception that baristas already make a living wage once you factor tips into their overall pay.

An employee with Sunergos declined to comment on the strike.

People at Starbucks stores across the country have been unionizing, and some baristas have joined a national, 13-city bus tour to spotlight their collective bargaining efforts and the problems they say they’ve had in forging fair contracts with the corporation.

That tour, dubbed “The Union is Calling,” made a stop in Louisville for Monday’s protest.

Starbucks pointed the finger at the union, Starbucks Workers United, for the holdup in collective bargaining talks.

“Workers United should demonstrate the same commitment to bargaining as they do to rallies, and now a multi-city bus tour,” a company spokesperson told LPM News in a statement. “Even though we have attempted to schedule bargaining for hundreds of stores, Workers United has only met Starbucks at the table to progress negotiations for 10 stores.”

The spokesperson said via email that the company has made an effort to begin negotiations for several local stores but the union has not been responsive.

As for Monday’s local strike, the Starbucks spokesperson said via email that employees at five Kentucky stores participated in that day’s “lawful union activities.”

“At those stores where partners have walked out or chosen to strike, we have made every effort to staff the store with partners from nearby locations interested in picking up additional hours,” they said.

Bloomberg Law reported in early June that Starbucks lost “16 of 17 cases decided by National Labor Relations Board administrative law judges” concerning violations of federal labor law.

Morgan is LPM's health & environment reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.

Can we count on your support?

Louisville Public Media depends on donations from members – generous people like you – for the majority of our funding. You can help make the next story possible with a donation of $10 or $20. We'll put your gift to work providing news and music for our diverse community.