What is Starbucks’ Red Cup Day; why are workers striking nationwide?
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Starbucks workers nationwide walked out Thursday during Red Cup Day, the company’s largest sales event of the season, to protest work and pay conditions.
Following last year’s strike on the same day, Starbucks Workers United organized a “Red Cup Rebellion” walkout again this year as well as local events for those who want to show support for the union’s demands.
One of these events took place in Tempe at the Starbucks Memorial Union, located at Arizona State University, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to the union.
The demonstrations took place outside the Starbucks located at 1290 S. Normal Ave. Demonstrators were offered free coffee, stickers and flyers to participate. The union invited customers and allies to participate “in solidarity with workers rising up for a fairer workplace,” the union said.
Why are Starbucks workers striking?
The goal of the local Red Cup Rebellion event was to boycott and educate passersby and attendees about Starbucks’s “nefarious” labor practices, according to event organizers.
The event was organized in partnership with other on-campus and off-campus student groups to show support for Palestinian territories as combat intensifies and the war’s death toll continues to increase.
“We alongside many campuses and organizations across the country will be joining in on the Red Cup rebellion,” the event description read. “We stand in solidarity with the Palestinians in their fight for liberation from settler colonialism! We stand in solidarity with the Starbucks workers in their fight for better pay and conditions!”
Demonstrators at the event were demanding the removal of Starbucks from all ASU campuses and ending ASU partnerships with companies that, according to the group, were complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
Sophie Levitt, one of the event organizers with Students Against Apartheid at ASU, told The Arizona Republic she was at the event to show support for Palestinians and for the Starbucks workers who were on strike on Thursday.
Levitt, who is Jewish, said her religious values are an important reason why she demonstrates support for the rights of people in positions of vulnerability or oppression.
“Supporting liberation for any group is super important to me,” Levitt, 21, said. “I’ve been organizing for the Palestine community since 2018 or so, but with the recent escalation in Gaza, we’ve seen so many more people mobilizing and becoming aware of the issue.”
Other ASU students, former Starbucks baristas, and organizers at the event told The Arizona Republic the protest was also planned in response to a federal lawsuit filed by Starbucks against the union in Iowa over a pro-Palestinian post shared by a union social media account in the early days of the Hamas-Israel war, court records obtained by USA TODAY last month show.
One of the main goals of the demonstration, according to organizers, was to end the partnership between Starbucks and ASU so that Starbucks is not able to have store locations or sell its products on ASU campuses.
Yet, the group said it was not specifically advocating for the end of the College Achievement Program, which provides eligible Starbucks employees with full tuition coverage for a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program.
The strike came just about a week after the company announced pay raises and new benefits for employees in the U.S.
The company announced that next year employees will see an increase in pay, with at least a 3% increase for eligible tenured partners. Eligible partners with two to five years of service will get at least 4% and those with five or more years of service will get at least 5%.
Other benefits include accruing paid vacation time 90 days after hire, and new credential and certification programs.
Attendees at the event said they view the new benefits and pay increases as an achievement of union pressure.
What to know about Red Cup Day:How to get a free cup; strike news
What is Red Cup Day at Starbucks?
Red Cup Day is an annual event in which participating U.S. Starbucks stores gift reusable red holiday cups to customers who order a handcrafted holiday beverage.
Free red cups were available for walk-up orders and orders through the Starbucks app, DoorDash, or Uber Eats. Supplies were limited, the company said.
This year, customers receive a free grande (16-ounce) reusable cup when they order any size handcrafted holiday or fall drink, except for the Starbucks Christmas Blend brewed coffee and Christmas Starbucks Reserve.
If customers bring back their reusable cups, they receive a 10-cent discount on their drink as well as 25 bonus stars for Starbucks Rewards members who use the Starbucks app.
According to the union, which represents more than 360 stores in the U.S. and has more than 9,000 union partners, Red Cup Day is one of Starbucks’s most profitable and busy days.
Starbucks employees who work that day are usually overworked, understaffed and underpaid, the union said.
People at the local event at ASU encouraged the university’s students as well as outside Starbucks customers to consider purchasing drinks at locally owned coffee shops if they want to support the union’s initiative.
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