Somerville Starbucks workers walk out after alleged anti-union threats

Xavier Roger



The workers said they walked out after a Starbucks manager unlawfully threatened to discipline staff who wore union shirts on the job. 

Starbucks employees are seen wearing black T-shirts with a green, white, and black logo resembling Starbucks', showing a raised first with the words "Starbucks Workers United."
Joshua Bessex / AP, File

Just weeks after taking steps to unionize, baristas at a Somerville Starbucks staged a walkout Wednesday after they said a manager threatened to discipline workers who wore union shirts on the job. 

“Yesterday, [one of us] got written up for wearing her Starbucks Workers United shirt, and today, we got told again we’re not allowed to wear it, even though it is legally protected,” one worker said while picketing outside the Somerville Avenue store Wednesday morning, according to a Starbucks Workers United press release. 

The walkout lasted until noon, according to the union. 

A 2022 National Labor Relations Board decision reaffirmed a longstanding precedent that employer attempts to restrict the display of union insignia — including union apparel — are “presumptively unlawful, absent special circumstances that justify such a restriction,” according to the NLRB.

“Wearing union insignia, whether a button or a t-shirt, is a critical form of protected communication,” NLRB Chairman Lauren McFerran said in a statement at the time. “For many decades, employees have used insignia to advocate for their workplace interests – from supporting organizing campaigns, to protesting unfair conditions in the workplace – and the law has always protected them.” 

A Starbucks spokesperson did not immediately return Boston.com’s request for comment. 

Staff at the Somerville store filed a petition to unionize with Starbucks Workers United on Feb. 24, writing in a letter to CEO Howard Schultz, “We give our all to make our store a place that people want to be. Despite this, however, we do not feel appreciated for this work. What we do feel is unheard, unrecognized, and disrespected.”

This isn’t the first time Starbucks has been accused of violating labor law during a unionization campaign; earlier this month, a federal judge ordered the company to reinstate several workers and reopen a location after finding that Starbucks violated labor laws “hundreds of times” during a unionization campaign in Buffalo, New York.


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