On Thursday morning, Starbucks' famous Red Cup Day, UNC students from the Carolina Young Democratic Socialists of America and other community members organized outside the Starbucks location on East Franklin Street with flyers and signs in solidarity with striking Starbucks workers across the nation.
The demonstration coincided with a national strike sponsored by Starbucks Workers Unitedin protest of Red Cup Day and staffing issues. The annual holiday event offers customers who order a holiday-oriented drink a free red reusable cup with their order, increasing business flow for the day.
Toby Posel, a UNC student organizer and volunteer with SWU, said the goal of the UNC demonstration was to achieve solidarity with local and national striking workers.
“Today is Red Cup Day, it’s their biggest promotional day of the year,” Posel said. “They spend millions of dollars on promo and sales, and they spend almost nothing on making sure that they are adequately staffed.”
Posel said that Carolina YDSA organized as part of the national campaign for better staffing and working conditions for Starbucks workers across the country. To express their opposition to Starbucks policies, Posel said volunteers focused on asking people to call the Starbucks complaint hotline and bring awareness about Starbucks’ union-busting tactics to customers and students.
“I think it’s important for students to know that the Starbucks union is one of the leaders right now in a new wave of workplace organizing and unionization,” Posel said.
Around 30 minutes into the demonstration, a Starbucks barista told demonstrators that while they could continue to protest, they could not block the entrance to the store. Chapel Hill police cars arrived at the location around 8:25 a.m. but left around 10 minutes later — they did not interact with protestors.
Dash Dean, a current Starbucks barista, said they are in support of the union and added that while workers do their best to accommodate customer requests, they can’t “break [their] backs for it.”