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University Boulevard Starbucks employees strike in response to cut hours, union busting

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In July 2022, the Starbucks on University Boulevard, right next to the University of Arizona campus, became the first location to unionize in Tucson.

Starbucks employees began a strike at the University Boulevard location Tuesday, Jan. 10, halting cafe operations. According to some of the employees at the sole unionized Starbucks in Tucson, the strike is in response to the company avoiding negotiations and various union busting efforts. 

This Starbucks is located in the Main Gate Square shopping strip right next to the University of Arizona campus, making it a hotspot for students. It also employs several UA students who begin their spring semester classes the day following the strike. 

Standing out on the sidewalk, protesters waved signs with “people over profits” and “union busting is disgusting” written in bold letters. Along with the picketing, members chanted and a few spoke over a microphone about the importance of what they were fighting for. 

One of the union members on strike who wanted to remain nameless said many of them are from working class families and needed the benefits offered to other locations to avoid desperate situations. 

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Back in July 2022, the employees voted to unionize and since then have run into problems with receiving raises or staffing problems, according to their strike flier. Hours have been cut preventing eligibility for benefits that employees at stores without a union have been receiving. 

“Starbucks Corporation has broken federal law by refusing to negotiate in good faith, or at all, with employees at this location and many others,” the flier states. 

A benefit Starbucks Corporation offers is a program where the company will pay for college tuition as long as the employee interested works a certain number of hours a week. But Tucson union members say they have been scheduled less hours, which disqualifies them from the program.

Along with losing out on this opportunity, union members stated in their flier that the jobs demands are too high for the type of pay they are receiving and with so few people working a given shift. 

NPR published a piece about the growing trend of Starbucks employees joining unions in October 2022. The article says “back in May, [CEO Howard Schultz] announced raises and a slate of new benefits for Starbucks employees, including faster sick time accrual, expanded training opportunities and credit card tipping.” 

Alonso Robles, a supporter at the strike and UA student said employees at the University Boulevard location have been denied these benefits. Unlike the many Starbucks locations that offer customers the option to leave a credit card tip, the University Boulevard location does not, Robles said. 

Later this month union members will be meeting with Starbucks Corporation again to negotiate, one of the Tucson employees striking said. 


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