Avondale, Mesa Starbucks Go on Strike for Red Cup Day

Baristas Natasha Mbazumutima and Cassidy Elliott pose in front of the Starbucks at 107th Avenue and Indian School Road in Avondale on Nov. 17, 2022. (Photo by Jessica Swarner)

By Jessica Swarner

November 22, 2022

More than 2,000 Starbucks workers from over 100 stores across the country participated in Thursday’s strike. 

Two Starbucks stores in Arizona—one in Avondale and one in Mesa—joined in Thursday’s nationwide Red Cup Rebellion strike. 

The strike came on Red Cup Day, the launch of Starbucks’ holiday drink menu. 

Natasha Mbazumutima, a barista at the Avondale store on 107th Avenue and Indian School Road, said they chose this day for the strike because it is one of the company’s most profitable days of the year. 

“Since they have continued to ignore us, we decided we’re going to hit them where it hurts,” she told The Copper Courier.

The Avondale store voted 17-3 to unionize in May. 

Starbucks has countered charges that it has refused to bargain, saying company representatives have shown up to more than 50 sessions and have another 60 scheduled. 

RELATED: From Buffalo to Arizona: A Starbucks Union Leader Reflects on the Movement

The company has also filed more than 40 unfair labor practices against the union for “failing to bargain in good faith.” 

The union said Starbucks has failed to schedule bargain dates, failed to provide requested information, and walked out of a bargaining meeting because some union members were calling in remotely. 

The National Labor Relations Board has filed 39 complaints against Starbucks for over 900 violations of labor law, according to the union. 

Fears for Safety Spark Organizing 

Barista Cassidy Elliott said conversations about unionizing happened after a shooting occurred in the store’s parking lot on Feb. 8. The employees inside ducked and covered, Elliott said, and a bullet hit one of the store’s windows. 

“We closed the store for a couple weeks to kind of recuperate,” Elliott said. “Some of my coworkers have some PTSD from it. I might even have some that I didn’t think I had.” 

Elliott said the company was supportive at first, but it took months for them to install bulletproof glass in the store. Employees also felt they weren’t given adequate access to therapy sessions. 

RELATED: A Phoenix Starbucks Worker Pushed for a Union. Then She Was Fired.

The barista added this incident was a breaking point, as employees had already encountered multiple robbery attempts before the shooting. 

Since the shooting, the store has closed its lobby and been operating only as a drive-thru. Elliott said there are plans to move to a different building less than a block away. 

When asked about the events that have occurred at the Avondale store, a Starbucks spokesperson said “the safety of our partners and our customers is our top priority.”

A Larger Movement

The union has been trying to bargain with Starbucks for six months, Elliott said, but they have been brushed off.

“We want them to hear us,” she said. “We want them to hear our voice. We’re not going to be ignored.” 

More than 2,000 Starbucks workers from over 100 stores across the country participated in Thursday’s strike. 

The Mesa store that participated—located at Power and Baseline roads—was the first store in Arizona to unionize. 

According to More Perfect Union, 345 stores in 39 states have filed for union elections, while 264 stores in 36 states have won those elections. 

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  • Jessica Swarner

    Jessica Swarner is the community editor for The Copper Courier. She is an ASU alumna and previously worked at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix.

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