On Monday morning, Mayor Michelle Wu joined the ranks of public officials supporting Starbucks workers on strike at a Commonwealth Avenue location.
At least five city officials — Wu, as well as city councilors Ruthzee Louijeune, Ed Flynn, and Kenzie Bok, and state Representative Tommy Vitolo — have visited the picket line this past week near Boston University, where baristas are fighting for fair working conditions.
In a letter released on July 18, workers alleged that Starbucks corporate and the store manager at 874 Commonwealth Ave. have slashed employees’ hours, made wrongful threats of termination, and exhibited discriminatory behavior “inconsistent with Starbucks’ mission and values.” The issues, they say, intensified after the location voted to unionize in June, alongside over 200 cafes nationwide.
At the strike, Wu told reporters that the city must encourage front-line employees that serve as “the backbone of our economy,” especially during the pandemic.
“It doesn’t work for our families — it doesn’t work for our city — when the burdens and the costs that are going up come on the backs of our workers with unsafe conditions or hours that are cut,” she said. “So we are calling on Starbucks to step up and be a good neighbor and a good partner for the City of Boston, and respect the unionizing that is happening here.”
On Twitter, Louijeune encouraged employees Sunday at what workers called a “mega-picket:” “Keep it going — no contract, no coffee.”
Joined the picket line today in solidarity with @BostonSBWU Starbucks workers at 874 Comm. Ave on Day 7 of their strike, fighting for a fair contract in light of unfair labor practices. Keep it going - no contract, no coffee! #bospoli pic.twitter.com/jtfGi6Jch1— Ruthzee Louijeune (@Ruthzee) July 24, 2022
Flynn met workers both this weekend and on the first day of the strike.
“We will always stand in solidarity with workers & their right to collective bargaining and to be treated with respect and dignity!” he tweeted.
Honored to join @KenzieBok & @GBLCBoston in standing w/striking @BostonSBWU workers today at 874 Comm Ave in their fight for fair labor practices at work. The @BOSCityCouncil will always stand in solidarity with workers & their right to collective bargaining & justice! #bospoli pic.twitter.com/S6x6cZan40— Ed Flynn 愛德華費連 (@EdforBoston) July 18, 2022
Vitolo, who represents Brookline, touted a sign that read “Solidarity with Starbucks workers” on Tuesday, too.
We are human beings and we deserve to be treated as such.@SBWorkersUnited #1u pic.twitter.com/SspuNXa7FZ— Tommy Vitolo (@TommyVitolo) July 19, 2022
Employees on strike have stationed themselves outside the cafe almost every day since last Monday, even in the midst of a scorching heat wave that pulled temperatures up to 100 degrees on Sunday.
Over the weekend, dozens of attendees marched while singing to karaoke, or purchased ice cream from a truck parked by the cafe.
On the 19th, the birthday of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, workers brought cake and balloons to the picket line in a roundabout effort to bring the leader to the bargaining table. (Since cafes began to organize in December, advocates have accused Schultz of union-busting and targeting employees at the forefront of the movement.)
Hey @HowardSchultz, we brought cake and balloons to the picket for your birthday — will this bring you to the bargaining table? #StarbucksOnStrike #HotLaborSummer pic.twitter.com/8ceh8ATXLw— Boston Starbucks Workers United (@BostonSBWU) July 19, 2022
Starbucks baristas across the country have launched at least 50 similar strikes since January, but this is the first one to run indefinitely. Employees at Commonwealth Avenue intend to picket until the company meets their demands to terminate their store manager, Tomi Chorlian, and hold monthly labor reviews to prevent understaffing. The location will remain closed until further notice.
Striking workers are receiving 70 percent of scheduled wages from a Workers United strike fund, Restaurant Dive reported. Teamsters in Boston have also pledged not to make food deliveries to the striking location.
In a statement, Starbucks corporate office repeated its response from last week, saying that they “respect [employees’] legal rights to engage in organizing activity or protest.”
Workers at a Cleveland Circle Starbucks did strike in late May over a water leak baristas said created unsafe work conditions, though it only lasted one day.
Diti Kohli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Follow her on Twitter @ditikohli_.