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Starbucks workers get outpouring of support from local union members and allies at Labor Plaza rally

Union members and allies stand in support of Starbucks workers at a rally at Labor Plaza. One individual in the center holds up a cardboard sign that says "San Antonio is a union town."
Josh Peck
/
Texas Public Radio
Supporters of the Starbucks workers join them at their rally at Labor Plaza.

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Local unionized Starbucks workers organized a rally on Friday at Labor Plaza to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the first unionized Starbucks store in the country and to demand an end to what they called Starbucks’ union busting campaign.

The rally was one of 10 held around the country on Friday and came less than a month after workers from the same East Houston and St. Mary’s store, who organized the rally, went on a one-day strike with over 100 other Starbucks stores nationwide.

Members from the AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers, and numerous other union-affiliated figures came out to support the Starbucks workers. District 2 and District 5 council members Jalen McKee-Rodriguez and Teri Castillo also attended the event.

Starbucks workers nationwide have been pushing for a contract and accuse Starbucks of stalling talks and attempting to intimidate workers in union- and non-union stores alike.

Starbucks has denied such allegations in the past. The company has been found in violation of federal labor law dozens of times by the National Labor Relations Board — including unlawful firings and unlawful surveillance of employees. The company has been accused by the NLRB of conducting these activities in San Antonio.

Lillian Allen, a unionized Starbucks worker from Austin, said her fellow workers would not back down despite Starbucks’ efforts.

“We will not bow to their bullying, because there will never be enough pressure that they can put on us to drive all of us out,” Allen said. “They will not crush this movement!”

A group of Teamsters in union attire stand and listen to speakers at the rally.
Josh Peck
/
Texas Public Radio
A group of Teamsters joined and spoke at the Labor Plaza rally.

Castillo explained why she believes the Starbucks union effort is bigger than just the baristas.

“The Starbucks workers have instilled a fire inside of every worker to recognize that when we are challenged with unfair labor practices, when we are having our right to unionize pressured by the bosses, that we will continue to organize together to stand up and fight back,” she said.

Labor Plaza, where the rally was held, is an outdoor art installation at 500 East Market St., across from the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, which finished construction in September. The space, which honors labor figures from San Antonio’s past, was used on Friday to rally support for San Antonio’s labor leaders of the present.

Alejandra Lopez, the president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Workers, celebrated the power of labor in a speech at the plaza.

“When Starbucks reported all-time record North American revenues and $1.1 billion in North American profits last quarter, it was you who made that happen,” she said. “That is what this movement is about, it’s about taking the power from the greedy corporate billionaires and putting it back where it belongs, in the hands of the workers.”

Linda Chavez-Thompson, the former executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, speaking at the Labor Plaza rally. Tom Cummins, to her left, is the president of the San Antonio AFL-CIO and AFT. Seiya Wayment, to her right, is one of the lead organizers at the East Houston and St. Mary's Starbucks.
Josh Peck
/
Texas Public Radio
Linda Chavez-Thompson, the former executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, speaking at the Labor Plaza rally. Tom Cummins (right) is the president of the San Antonio AFL-CIO and AFT. Seiya Wayment (left) is one of the lead organizers at the East Houston and St. Mary's Starbucks.

Linda Chavez-Thompson, a former executive vice president of the national AFL-CIO, spoke about what Starbucks workers were fighting for, and why she was standing with them.

“We stand here again, and any time that we are needed, to stand up not just for the Starbucks workers, but for their families, for their dignity, for the respect they demand and should be given,” she said.

There are currently six unionized Starbucks stores in the San Antonio area out of the more than 250 stores that have voted to unionize in the past year.

Parker Davis is a worker at one of those San Antonio Starbucks stores, off of Wurzbach and Blanco. He said his coworkers, who unionized in August, have already experienced the benefits of their union.

He said when his store had an unscheduled closure earlier this week, he and his coworkers were able to bargain for everyone who had been scheduled to work that day to receive the pay they would have received had the store been open. Not only were they compensated monetarily, he said, but they were given “the respect that they deserve.”

Starbucks workers and supporters stand with their fists raised at the end of the Labor Plaza rally.
Josh Peck
/
Texas Public Radio
Starbucks workers and supporters standing together following the rally.

C.J. Littlefield, a 50-year veteran of the labor movement, told the younger Starbucks workers that the old guard of the union movement was there for them.

“I say to the Starbucks workers, you have support from your elders,” Littlefield said. “We’re here to back y’all up, to work with you, to give you advice, to guide you, to help you to be able to withstand.”

Lopez, the president of the educators’ association, echoed one of the longest lasting motifs of the labor movement to end her speech.

“Solidarity now, solidarity forever.”

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Josh Peck is the Technology & Entrepreneurship Reporter for Texas Public Radio.