Labor, Democracy & the Common Good

Ansley Mall Starbucks workers went on a one-day strike Thursday to protest Starbucks’ refusal to begin contract negotiations. 

They’re also protesting its decision to cancel Covid-19 sick leave, which included paid time off to get vaccinated or quarantine if diagnosed.

“A lot of stores have taken action and we felt like it was our turn to step up,” Amanda Rivera, a shift supervisor and one of the store’s lead union organizers, told Atlanta Civic Circle. “We’re showing that our vote to unionize wasn’t just symbolic.” 

For the strike, held on National Coffee Day, members of Starbucks Workers United, the Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America, the New Georgia Project, and the Georgia chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers all showed up to support the workers. 

As passersby shouted, “Solidarity! Solidarity!” and cars honked in support, Eric Robertson, a New Georgia Project organizer, said local labor organizers should take notes from the Starbucks employees. “We help them when they ask and give some advice on strategy, but their boldness is amazing.” 

Rivera said the newly unionized Ansley Mall store employees have had it on their calendar for weeks to strike for National Coffee Day on Sept. 29. 

The employees voted to unionize in early June by a 10-1 vote. But since then, Rivera said, they’ve received no response from management about starting contract negotiations. Ansley Mall is one of over 250 Starbucks stores nationally that have voted to unionize in the past year. 

Starbucks just announced that it will start talking to many unionized stores, saying on Monday that it had sent 234 unionized stores letters offering a three-week window in October to start contract negotiations, according to the AP

Ansley Mall Starbucks workers went on strike Thursday, Sept. 29, in an effort to seek a union contract. Stores undergoing the unionization process have accused the coffee giant of union-busting. Photo: Kendall Glynn for ACC

But Rivera said the Ansley Mall store has not been contacted by Starbucks about scheduling contract negotiations. 

“We just want a seat at the table and some respect,” said Rivera. “The people who are most respected by society, the ones with the money, count on us. We deserve some respect.” 

When workers at Atlanta’s other unionized Starbucks at Howell Mill went on a similar one-day strike in mid-July, it closed the store for the day.

The Ansley Mall store remained open during the strike on Thursday, operated by three managers and an employee from another store, but no rank-and-file employees of the store crossed the picket line, according to store employees and union organizers. 

Rivera said she and her Ansley Mall Starbucks co-workers aren’t done trying to put pressure on Starbucks management. 

“We’re going to just keep doing this. We’re not going to give up,” said Rivera. “We now know that this is fun and worthwhile. If they want to stick their heads in the sand and pretend, we’re going to keep going on strike.”