There was a large turnout for the very successful Starbucks Workers United ‘Red Cup Day’ strike on November 14. IWW photo.
By FW X331980
This is a personal account by one IWW member.
Stopping the strikebreakers: Starbucks Workers United organizers [all are rank-and-file baristas, not professionals] sent word to me around 5 AM [yawn!] that managers from several stores had opened the Sehome Village store – reportedly the most profitable Starbucks north of Seattle, and one of the three Bellingham Starbucks on strike. “Can you rally some of your union members and get down here quick to help us out? ” A few of us gathered in the dark at the
planned rally site at the Iowa & King Starbucks. A flying squad of three women from SWU drove over to the Sehome store and set up a solid picket line in the dark and windy cold at Sehome. The focus of activity had to very quickly change to that store, so a couple of IWWs stayed at Iowa & King to hold the fort and direct folks who showed up to get across town to the ‘scene of the crime’; about 30 union members and community supporters adjusted their plans and joined the hastily set up picket line at Sehome. They marched and chanted outside, and very few customers went into the store. Management eventually got it through there thick heads that the union’s support was too strong and they were wasting their time. They shut down by 8:30, having lost a LOT of business on Red Cup Day.
Meanwhile, back at Iowa & King….. Two IWWs maintained the picket at the drive thru/walkup store at Iowa & King. Even though the store was closed- the manager was trying to break the strike at the Sehome store- there had to be someone there to talk to the many customers who were turned away, and give the Red Cup collectors a souvenir Starbucks Workers United Red Cup instead.
At one point a very big, very black SUV with heavily tinted windows and a bunch of radio aerials stopped in front of the two of us Wobs standing right in the drive thru. We stood our ground. Then the car veeeeerrrrrrry sloooooowly pulled right. up. to. us. I mean RIGHT UP! Though it looked like a cop car, there was no insignia, no roof flashers, no nothin’. So one of us walked up to the closed window to see a guy sitting there in a black coppish uniform without any badges or patches or other cop insignia. Big computer screen mounted to the dash.
The window rolled down.
“You need to move out of the driveway.”
“Are you a police officer?”
“No, I’m a private security consultant.” [say whaaa? You mean, like a damn Pinkerton?]
“Why do we need to move.”
“You are restricting entrance to my clients store.”
“Uh, you realize the store is closed down, and there is no one inside to serve customers?”
“I don’t know about that.”
“So we aren’t affecting your client’s business, right?”
“Wait, you mean there’s really no one in there?”
“Oh. Uh, well, I guess not.”
“It’s been so nice talking to you. Bye.”
And the rent-a-cop drove off, into the cold not-quite-dawn. I know, just another worker doing his miserable job…I guess. The other FW and I continued our vigil; we were eventually joined by our newest member, FW j., who just joined up the day before. A nice way to start her life in the IWW!
The sun came up. The breeze died down. Automobile and truck traffic at the very busy intersection of Iowa & King picked up. Pickets arrived from Sehome and for the planned rally- the crowd grew on the sidewalk. LOTS of people honked and held up fists out of car windows. Truckers and small trades people in vans cheered and waved. One guy stopped a couple lanes over at the red light and shouted ‘Well done! You show those fuckers!’ There was no effort to open the three shut stores [Cordata was also the scene of a very small ‘show the Union’s face’ picket.]
A visit to the nonunion stores. Two IWWs got a wild hair idea to pay lightning visits to the two nonunion [so far] Starbucks in town- north up on Bakerview and the Fairhaven Parkway store down on the far south side. We walked into the busy stores. FW T put a ‘red cup day’ strike sign up on a bulletin board and I shouted out “Solidarity with the Starbucks Union! Nationwide strike today! Organize! Join the union!” At the Fairhaven store an officious person told us we “would have to change our attitude if we wanted to stay in the store”. You kidding me? We didn’t walk in to get any of your lousy burnt Charbucks coffee!
SWU organizers here have been trying to negotiate with management for a contract. Local managers have refused to sit at the table, or have showed up, then left without taking any proposals, or suddenly said they need to reschedule. Boo hiss.
The picket was real good, and must have built the confidence of the rank and file Starbucks workers [why do you still call yourselves ‘partners’? Clearly corporate doesn’t think you are!]. Certainly there is a lot of support from ordinary people going about their business on a winter day. Bellingham is indeed a ‘union town’.
A bad day for Starbucks. It was a brilliant tactic to strike nationwide on Red Cup day, the biggest day of the year for the company. They lost a lot of money because of the strike!
So….where the hell were the other unions? I’d say the only low point was the absence of any other unions in any formal show of solidarity. IWW members were there as Wobs, wearing our shirts and hats and carrying our own picket signs, and waving our union flags. Several of us took time from work or school or stuck around as long they could before they had to get on with their lives. There was no other organized union presents. A couple individuals from UFCW, maybe an SEIU person, a retiree from OPEIU, a retired professor or two; a firefighter at the Sehome store; that was it as far as I could ascertain, and I asked around. What’s up with that? Show some organized solidarity for cryin’ out loud! Let these brave, young, new unionists know that the rest of the unions in Bellingham can stand in solidarity.
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Nobody said it would be easy, but it is enormously worth it. Congratulations and applause from Italy.