Starbucks workers at first unionized store stage walkout over safety conditions

Buffalo, New York – Baristas at the country's first unionized Starbucks walked out on Wednesday over Covid-19 safety conditions on the job.

Michelle Eisen (r.) and fellow Starbucks workers at the Elmwood location in Buffalo walked out after the company refused to meet their Covid-19 safety demands.
Michelle Eisen (r.) and fellow Starbucks workers at the Elmwood location in Buffalo walked out after the company refused to meet their Covid-19 safety demands.  © Collage: Screenshot/Twitter/Christine Bonanducci & Screenshot/Facebook/SBWorkersUnited

In December last year, the Elmood location in Buffalo, New York, became the first unionized Starbucks in the country.

Their campaign exposed not only Starbucks' relentless union-busting activities, but also the extent to which the company, which prides itself on its ostensibly progressive benefits, actually discounts workers' real experiences.

But even after their victory during the union election, the baristas' problems didn't stop.

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Workers have raised concerns with corporate representatives about high coronavirus infection rates on the job.

Starbucks has responded to the Omicron wave by making stores take-out only and requiring employees either to show proof of vaccination or test weekly, CNN reported.

But when workers asked the company to provide hazard pay, N95 masks, and Covid-19 testing kits for employees, as well as enforce mask mandates for customers, their demands were reportedly ignored.

"We walked out today because we had Covid safety issues that were not being met by the company," explained Michelle Eisen, leader of the Starbucks Workers United local organizing committee, in a More Perfect Union video.

"They said, under no certain terms, as long as there are enough employees to meet the needs of the business, then everything was being taken care of," Eisen said. "My response is that the needs of the business are not my concern. The needs of my workers are my concern, and we are standing up and saying that we need more protections."

"We're not going to go back into the store until we feel that we are safe," she affirmed.

The baristas have started a GoFundMe page, where they are requesting donations to help cover their costs of living while they are out of work.

Cover photo: Collage: Screenshot/Twitter/Christine Bonanducci & Screenshot/Facebook/SBWorkersUnited

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