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UNC students participate in national day of action against Starbucks

Organizers gather in front of South Building on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. UNC-Chapel Hill students united with students at 25 campuses across the country demanding their universities hold Starbucks accountable for union busting.

On Thursday afternoon, UNC students participated in a student-organized national day of action against the Starbucks Corporation, during which demonstrators gave the company a failing grade on their “report card” for workers’ rights.

Students from UNC Young Democratic Socialists of America, a group that shared details about the events on social media, gathered on the steps of South Building and chanted, “When worker rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

According to an Instagram post by Starbucks Workers United, the worker-led Starbucks union, students at 24 other college campuses participated in the campaign, demanding that their universities end contracts with Starbucks.

UNC student Toby Posel, an organizer with Students Against Starbucks, said the action taken across the country was in response to Starbucks’ union-busting tactics. Posel said inconsistencies in pay raises are a “horrific example” of Starbucks’ retaliation against unionized workers.

Starbucks increased pay and benefits for most of its hourly workers in 2023, but unionized workers weren't eligible for some of those perks, according to The Associated Press.

Sheena Meng, a UNC student involved in the organization of the day of action, said she hopes the event will help the university recognize that students want to replace Starbucks locations, such as at the Stone & Leaf Cafe on campus, with unionized businesses that allow worker negotiation.

Samuel Scarborough, a student organizer who attended the event, said implementing this change at UNC would allow the University to focus on the surrounding community.

“This is a way for us to move away from larger multinational corporations and really think about local business growth,” Scarborough said.

The event brought speakers from two unionized Starbucks locations in Wilmington and Durham and a representative from the Union of Southern Service Workers.

Russell Calzaretta, an employee at a newly-unionized Durham Starbucks, said during his speech that employees at his store have dealt with unsafe working conditions and years of inhumane treatment, leading them to call for a vote to unionize by a vote of 16-2.

Calzaretta also said he felt there were significant inequities in pay raises for employees compared to Starbucks’ profits.

Haya Odeh, a UNC student and former Starbucks worker said she believes she is blacklisted from transferring her employment to a non-unionized Starbucks location after participating in unionizing efforts at her former location in Wilmington.

“When I submitted my transfer request almost four to six months before transferring from Wilmington, North Carolina, to Chapel Hill to continue my bachelor's degree, I was told, ‘Yeah, we can find you a store,’” Odeh said during her speech. “When I moved here, they didn’t. They said no one was hiring, though they actively were.”

Dalton Parrish, a representative from the USSW, said at the event that the union was present to support Students Against Starbucks and provide a better future for the next generation.

“Y’all, we have this next generation coming up after us, we have to make sure they’re taken care of,” Parrish said during his speech. “If you have children, guess what — you have to feed them, right?”

To end the event, student organizers displayed a poster, designed as a report card for Starbucks assigning an “F-” grade for the company workers’ rights, at the doors of South Building.

“We’re on college campuses, we’re in the middle of midterm season right now, people are getting grades back. We wanted to give Starbucks a grade,” Posel said. “They [have] consistently failed their workers time and time again, and so we’re failing Starbucks."


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