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Starbucks baristas walk off job in Vegas

Updated November 16, 2023 - 7:09 pm

Starbucks workers at three stores in Las Vegas walked off the job Thursday, joining a coast-to-coast “Red Cup Rebellion” of workers hosting a brief strike on one of the busiest days of the year.

Baristas across the country are demanding the multinational coffee chain bargain with the Starbucks Workers United over staffing, scheduling and other issues. The strike comes on Red Cup Day, when the company hands out tens of thousands of free reusable cups, one of its busiest customer traffic days of the year, the union said in a Thursday news release.

“One of our hopes to get from this is for other people to recognize that Starbucks has not met us at the table time and time again, and walked out of many conversations,” Zarain Pouncy, a barista at the Clark Avenue and Casino Center Boulevard location, said. “That’s why we’re here: no contract, no coffee.”

Starbucks workers say they want the company to turn off mobile ordering on future promotion days — things they say are scheduled with increasing frequency.

Promotion days and mass-pushed offers cause a flood of customers to stores without enough staffing to cover the rush, according to the release. On Red Cup Day, the customer demands can turn angry when the supply of red cups runs out.

“I think Red Cup Day is a microcosm of what happens throughout the year. We get understaffed, under-scheduled and under-houred, and we just deal with it,” said Ares Sinconegui, a barista at the Rainbow and Oakey boulevards location. “Especially on the busiest day of the year.”

Notably, customers were still milling about at the location. Sinconegui said most of the store called out or came to the strike, but managers and workers pulled from other stores were staffing it during the walkout.

In a statement, Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull said that promotions have long been used in the company’s history and that store leaders have flexibility to adjust staff schedules to meet the demands of the store.

It also countered the union’s claim that the company won’t bargain, saying Workers United has not met to advance contract bargaining in five months.

“As we join together to uplift the holiday season and reflect on the past year, we again call on Workers United to fulfill their obligations and engage in the work of negotiating first contracts on behalf of the partners they represent,” Trull said in the statement.

Workers at the 122 E. Clark Ave. location in downtown Las Vegas and at the 1772 S. Rainbow Blvd. location in Rainbow Express Village hosted picket lines from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Thursday, some of the busiest hours of the day, the Starbucks workers said.

Baristas at 2001 E. Lake Mead Blvd. were also on strike but did not picket, according to the union.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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