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The Starbucks at 34th and Walnut streets on Jan. 10. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Employees at the 34th and Walnut streets Starbucks location participated in a nationwide strike on March 22.

Over 100 unionized Starbucks locations protested against alleged instances of union-busting and to advocate for contracts. The strike was held in lieu of “Founder’s Day” on March 22, which is a Starbucks event held in honor of Howard Schultz who served as the company’s CEO from 1986 to 2000, from 2008 to 2017, and has been the interim CEO since 2022. The strike occurred a day before Laxman Narasimhan was set to become the new CEO.

“Howard Schultz created an opportunity to celebrate Starbucks, except [Starbucks is] treating its employees pretty bad,” Jo Schermerhorn, a shift supervisor at the 34th and Walnut streets location, said. “We were trying to make sure the new CEO is coming in with the impression that the union is going stronger than ever.” 

Workers from six locations in the Philadelphia region, including the location near Penn Medicine on 3400 Civic Center Blvd., participated in the strike and picketed outside of City Hall. 

“We decided to picket at City Hall [because] there is a trial going on with some of our previous bosses for some union busting going on last year,” Schermerhorn said. “That way both people testifying and lawyers know that we are not going to stand down.”

In January, the National Labor Relations Board filed complaints of union-busting at the 34th and Walnut streets location, alleging that Starbucks store managers discouraged workers from participating in a union by reducing hours and wages and failing to bargain with already unionized employees. The 34th and Walnut location voted to unionize last May.

“The cuts [to hours] have been pretty universal,” Dempsey Bradshaw, a barista at the 34th and Walnut streets location, said. “I’ve heard stories [that] most of the people who were working here when people were first filing [to unionize] are no longer working here because their hours were cut so severely that they had to leave.”

Bradshaw also told The Daily Pennsylavanian about concerns regarding understaffing that resulted from the hour cuts. Starbucks stores partake in what is called “clean plays,” in which the store is deep cleaned — everything from floors to machines. 

According to Bradshaw, however, there is not enough time or resources for the workers to carry out the clean play in time for closing because of understaffing. Moreover, Bradshaw said the company is not letting extra people come in towards the end of the day to help out with clean plays. 

“It can cause hazardous conditions for the customers,” Bradshaw said. “Our partners work really hard to get these tasks done because they are important to the safety of the customers, but they end up staying later than scheduled.”

According to Schermerhorn, the lack of credit card tipping at the 34th and Walnut streets location is an example of union-busting. The location at 39th and Market streets, which is not currently unionized, has already rolled out the update on POS payment machines to help with credit card tipping. Schermorhorn said that Starbucks is refusing to bargain for the update at their location.

“Credit card tipping has changed some baristas' lives,” Schermerhorn said. “They say the equivalent is up to a two or three dollar raise in some areas.” 

As the workers continue to make demands as a union, they expressed enthusiasm about getting results from their action.

“I'm definitely looking forward to getting our contract,” Schermerhorn said. “We're trying to put pressure on them to get them to bargain and we definitely have an escalation plan for this year.”