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Tip, Don’t Order: Starbucks Workers in US Launch Unique Campaign for Community Support

The initiative to boost community support comes at a time when the SBWU is aiming to gather 30,000 signatures for its ‘No Contract, No Coffee’ solidarity campaign over the Labor Day weekend.
Tip, Don’t Order: Starbucks Workers in US Launch Unique Campaign for Community Support

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Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) in the United States have come up with an innovative campaign to draw support from their customers and local communities to strengthen their efforts to unionise and bargain with the firm. The event called “sip-ins” have a unique tactic -- pay the baristas and servers with big tips when one enters a Starbucks store, but not buy any coffee, the People’s World reported.

The “sip-ins” will take place on the Labour Day weekend, which comprises three days leading to the first Monday in the month of September. Labour Day in the US is celebrated to mark the American labour movement.

The initiative to boost community support comes at a time when the SBWU is aiming to gather 30,000 signatures for its “No Contract, No Coffee” solidarity campaign over the weekend.

To support the SBWU, the patrons can enter the store and grab a glass of water, leave tips, and sign the campaign petition.  Alternatively, they can order coffee and identify themselves citing the local union.

“A group of community allies, wearing union shirts and buttons,” will be  “spending as much time as permitted in a Starbucks café–after ordering drinks using union slogans as names and tipping well,” SBWU explained in its August 16 newsletter to members, according to the People’s World.

“The goal is to create a celebratory environment, and make connections with workers and customers who could become community allies. Workers feel supported, managers feel watched, and community allies get to tangibly support the campaign,” it added.

About 100 of the coffee chain’s stores are holding the “sip-ins” from Friday, September 2 to Monday, September 5, In These Times reported.

The report says the sip-ins are loosely modelled after sit-ins and mark designated times for supporters of a store to come in, order low-priced drinks or water, and leave big tips. It also provides a scope for the barista workers and their patrons to engage in a conversation about labour conditions and build alliances.

As per In These Times, several stores will also be on strike during the Labour Day weekend. Additionally, other major events are also set to be held in major cities to expand and bolster the union’s work. In Boston, a labour rally, a rank-and-file breakfast, and a reproductive justice rally will be followed by the sip-ins on Labor Day. The state capitals of Oklahoma and Texas will see Starbucks workers holding rallies, among other events.

Collin Pollitt, a barista in Oklahoma City, told In These Times that the goal of these days of action is to send a message to Starbucks that the firm could not run without the workers and it needs to be held accountable.

SBWU is also planning to host a web-based event on Monday evening for the Labor Day attendees to tune in, watch the event and hold discussions. The aim is not to just boost the labour rights struggle of Starbucks workers, but to build a larger labour movement, participants told the media.

Individual leaders in the Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and New England regions of SBWU including Pollitt, Dinaro, and DaGuerre, respectively, are among those who helped create the events as part of SBWU’s National Contract Action Team, In These Times reported. The team is in charge of the plans to bolster direct actions to pressurise Starbucks in negotiating a first contract with them. Workers United, the parent union for SBWU, first tabled the idea of a large wave of sip-ins, which received a lot of support from the workers, the report said.

In Boston, the day’s events focus on the theme of intersectionality, with a focus on reproductive rights, which is a burning issue in the US right now. “So long as we are upholding one system of oppression, we are therefore justifying our own,” DaGuerre told In These Times, adding that “it really needs to be a collective movement of intersectional solidarity.”

However, workers in more isolated locations likely would not be able to participate in the campaign for a lack of community support. However, for those who can participate, it is an opportunity to enhance their impact through the campaign to unionize Starbucks and protest union-busting in different places.

“A bunch of Gen Z kids have banded together and decided to stop accepting that Starbucks will refuse to pay us a living wage,” Dinaro told In These Times, noting that it was “truly inspiring”.

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