Our Story

Igniting a Movement

Starbucks partners have faced persistent problems for years: short staffing and unpredictable scheduling, low wages, harassment, and more.

Meanwhile, Starbucks raked in record, billion-dollar profits while touting a purported model of social responsibility.

A group of individuals holding protest signs outside a building, with messages such as "Understaffed and Overworked," "Union Busting is Disgusting," and "Starbucks Workers on Strike." Some are raising their fists in the air, and one sign has "Victory to our Strike" written on it.

In August 2021, partners from different Starbucks stores in Buffalo, NY banded together to advocate for real, material changes for their workplace. They filed petitions to unionize and started Starbucks Workers United (SBWU)!

A group of people standing in front of a building with the sign "THE UNION IS CAFE" in large letters, some individuals holding protest signs and wearing t-shirts with various slogans

The Elmwood store in Buffalo was the first store to win their union. Immediately, workers across the country were inspired to begin their own union campaigns, realizing their workplace issues were happening everywhere. Soon, hundreds of Starbucks stores voted to unionize, making SBWU one of the fastest organizing efforts in modern history.

A street filled with a large crowd of people gathered for an event, with a Starbucks sign prominently displayed in the background, set against bare-branched trees and a clear blue sky. Some participants are holding banners and signs, indicating a demonstration or march in progress.

With a union contract, improved benefits, wages, and working conditions could be in writing and can’t be reduced without bargaining. Hundreds of partners from union stores came together to develop thoughtful, meaningful collective bargaining proposals that would address the issues they face.

Partners with strike signs for no contract, no coffee.

We are standing up for ourselves and partners everywhere by continuing to organize. In March of 2024, SBWU and Starbucks announced we have began discussions on creating a foundational framework around bargaining and organizing. This is a giant step forward for our movement, but there is still work to be done!

We won’t stop until we’ve reached fair and just agreements for all 10,000+ partners who have unionized at Starbucks!

Our Connection to Workers United

We are proud to be part of Workers United. We draw inspiration from the grassroots worker-led founding of Workers United. It emerged from the struggles of immigrant garment workers fighting for safer conditions and decent pay. These workers, traditionally overlooked in job protections, endured tremendous retaliation for their efforts.

Workers United represents workers across many industries — laundries and warehouses, textile factories and manufacturing plants, and restaurants and coffee shops. Joining this union means that we are part of a community of people working in industries of all kinds, some similar to the work that we do, others wildly different. We get the benefit of learning from all of their experience protecting and caring for their friends and coworkers.

As part of Workers United, we are working to transform Starbucks into a better, more forward thinking, justice seeking place for everyone.