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Sip-In at Courthouse Arlington Starbucks

Photo credit: Virginia Diamond

ARLINGTON — Starbucks union organizers held a sip-in at the Courthouse Arlington Starbucks in Northern Virginia this past Thursday, October 20, from 8 AM to 3 PM. The organizers gathered to demonstrate community support for the baristas, who are organizing their union with Starbucks Workers United. Customers ordered coffee using the name “Union Strong” and stayed to meet and talk with other union supporters. Among the supporters were representatives from the AFL-CIO, UAW, SEIU, Metro DC DSA, DC IWW, and the Northern Virginia CPUSA.

A representative from the Northern Virginia CPUSA spoke with Sam Dukore, a union organizer at the store. With ten years of experience as a barista and shift supervisor at Starbucks and a veteran of the IWW campaign to organize Starbucks in 2014, he’s one of the leaders organizing his store with SWU since early 2022.

The baristas at the store are campaigning for better wages, schedules, staffing, and health and safety conditions. COVID-19 has been a big health and safety issue, as baristas have been forced to come in with positive COVID-19 test results.

“Baristas have been forced to come in with a positive test.”

– Sam Dukore

Dukore also elaborated on the lack of predictable staffing and scheduling, a longtime issue in Starbucks organizing campaigns. He described how he, as a practicing Jew, was forced to work on Yom Kippur despite requesting off long in advance. Unfortunately, these situations are not unique and are often retaliation for organizing.

Regarding retaliation, Dukore described an all-hands meeting on Halloween night, the timing appeared to punish parents with young children so they couldn’t take them trick-or-treating. 

Some meetings appeared racially tinged, as they were 2-on-1 meetings with ESOL baristas who were discouraged from supporting the union. The baristas were intimidated and given little opportunity for clarification.

Additional retaliation from management included: being written up for minor infractions, such as being a few minutes late due to traffic (Arlington traffic is notoriously congested); verbal reprimands given by managers for carrying out tasks they instructed baristas to complete; and denying baristas participation in “Starbucks’ “Give and Grow” community service campaign by claiming it can’t be allowed due to scheduling conflicts with the union election.

Dukore reported several stores have also been shut down and union organizers have been fired, including stores in Richmond and Leesburg, VA. Tori, an SWU organizer from Pittsburgh, said she was fired from her store after being on the union organizing committee.

Virginia Diamond, president of the Northern Virginia AFL-CIO, said that the Courthouse Arlington store will be the 14th union store in Virginia despite Starbucks’ union-busting tactics, which includes raises only for non-union baristas and firing organizers. Diamond remains confident in the campaign.

“We’ll build back the momentum.”

– Virginia Diamond, Northern Virginia AFL-CIO

Dukore is equally confident in his store having a successful election on November 8. Back in 2014 he was forced into a 1-on-1 meeting with Starbucks founder and CEO Howard Schultz, who told him,

“Not a lot of people would agree with you”

– Howard Schultz, Starbucks founder and CEO, 2014
SWU, IWW, and UAW organizers in support of the union. Photo credit: Virginia Diamond

“But things have changed”

– Sam Dukore, Courthouse Arlington Starbucks union organizer, 2022
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