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College students plotting to get Starbucks kicked off campuses plan to join baristas as they walk off the job on Red Cup Day

Nancy Luna   

College students plotting to get Starbucks kicked off campuses plan to join baristas as they walk off the job on Red Cup Day
  • Starbucks workers plan to walk off the job on November 16, which is expected to be Red Cup Day.
  • The promotion is one of the busiest days of the year as the chain gives out reusable holiday cups.

The Starbucks workers union have found a new ally – college students.

Students from campuses around the US plan to join Starbucks employees when they walk off the job later this week on what is expected to be Red Cup Day. The annual event, where Starbucks hands out free holiday reusable cups with a beverage purchase, is one of the busiest promotions of the year.

Starbucks has not officially announced when Red Cup Day will be held this year, but last year, it was held on Thursday, November 17.

College students actively campaigning to boot Starbucks from campuses plan to join workers November 16, a day the union is labeling "Red Cup Rebellion." The students say they support the Starbucks union and are against alleged union-busting tactics by the chain. The walkout comes at as tensions have risen between Starbucks and the union.

"Our main goal is to show solidarity with Starbucks workers whose right to organize is being infringed by Starbucks," said Ella Clark, a founding member of Georgetown Students Against Starbucks.

Clark, a freshman studying government and US history, led the union movement at her local San Francisco Starbucks when she was in high school. She told Insider she was inspired to by a group of students at Cornell University who successfully convinced the college to end its contract with Starbucks over the summer.

The Cornell students pushed for the exit of Starbucks after the chain closed three unionized stores in the college's hometown of Ithaca.

Other student-led groups looking to boot Starbucks from their campuses are from University of Washington, University of Minnesota, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Louisville, University of Chicago, UCLA, Stanford University, Boston University, American University, and the University of Arizona, the union said.

Starbucks told Insider it is ready to meet in-person for negotiations with union representatives, who have not "agreed to meet for contract bargaining in more than four months."

"We are aware that Workers United has publicized a day of action at a small subset of our US stores next week," the company said. "We remain committed to working with all partners, side-by-side, to elevate the everyday, and it is clear that Workers United's priorities don't include the shared success of our partners. "

Starbucks Workers United represents more than 300 unionized Starbucks stores and 9,000 workers. Starbucks has about 38,000 stores.

Red Cup Rebellion targets one of the most hectic days for Starbucks employees

Starbucks workers from over 100 stores walked off the job last year on Red Cup Day.

The union said they expect twice the number of stores to participate this year "with a potential for hundreds of stores to shut down" during a chaotic day.

"We are striking this Red Cup Day in response to understaffing, especially during new promotional days," Caitlin Power, a barista in Gardner, Massachusetts, said in a statement. "This leaves us overwhelmed and customers with long wait times. We are ready to see Starbucks at the bargaining table in good faith so we can address these issues."

Workers are demanding Starbucks turn off mobile orders during promotional events like Red Cup Day.

Negotiations have stalled as Starbucks has been accused of violating various labor laws by the union and the National Labor Relations Board.

In late September, a NLRB judge ruled that the chain made "flagrant" and corporate-wide attacks on its employees' right to choose union representation. Starbucks is appealing the ruling.

The proposed walkout comes after Starbucks announced new perks and a pay bump for employees on November 6. Starbucks said it is raising wages by at least 3% for more than 200,000 US employees, whose average wage is $17.50 per hour.

Starbucks Workers United member Alex Yeager said the "new benefits are a victory for our campaign," but he criticized the chain for excluding union stores.

Some employees in stores with certified union representation may not be eligible for all raises due to NLRB rules, the company said.

"The company's announcement is also a clear continuation of its unprecedented, illegal union-busting campaign," Yeager said. "Withholding benefits from unionized stores is against the law, and we will file an unfair labor practice charge in response."

Are you a Starbucks worker with insight to share? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at or via Signal encrypted at 714-875-6218.

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