By Justine S., Red Phoenix correspondent, Minnesota.
On April 27, Starbucks workers at 300 Snelling Ave S. in St. Paul, Minnesota, returned to the picket line after the nationwide strike on March 2022, demanding a return to the regular 20-person staff, their right to display openly their union bulletin board, coverage for transgender healthcare, and more. The walk-out was performed on the first anniversary of this location’s unionization, and was attended by members of the Minnesota Nurses Association, MN DSA, Macalester YDSA, and the American Party of Labor. I interviewed Marshall Steele, they/them, a shift supervisor at the store, who has worked there since July 2021 when the store opened. The interview is transcribed below.
Red Phoenix: What prompted this particular strike?
Marshall: This particular strike was prompted by Starbucks’ removal of a bulletin board in the back which is protected by the NLRA. They removed it even after several notices that what they were doing was illegal, and an unfair labor practice. So we put up the strike notice for today, that we were going on strike over unfair labor practices, over the bulletin board.
But it’s also been for us, a lot of channeling frustrations that go probably beyond just a single bulletin board.
RP: Right, I heard that you guys were operating at twelve people when normally you have twenty?
M: Yes. In the last five or six months, we’ve lost five people and hired in one, and our business has gone up around 100 to 150%. We’re operating with at most five or six people total in the store today, and so I think a lot of this is frustration channeled around staffing, and management not being attentive to the people they employ.
RP: Could you tell me more about that lack of attentiveness?
M: Even if they could believably not see that the store was understaffed, people have been talking to management and asking them, “Can we please hire more people? Everyone is burnt out, overworked, and working on the bare minimum needed to keep the store open.” But they have just delayed and delayed. It seems pretty clear at this point that they’re pretty much just trying to cut costs as much as possible with no regard for those of us working in the store. I think that frustration is boiling over here, along with the bulletin board stuff, and obviously the fact that they still haven’t come to the table for any sort of contract bargaining.
RP: And the bulletin board, what was on that?
M: It was a set of contact information for shop steward – which is myself, our committee reps, and our union rep as well. It also had a few legal notices, which are required to be up in any unionized shop, and space for us to put out news of strike votes. They [Starbucks] took that down two days after it went up, and they actually said that “we could have a little folder in the back,” hidden away in the corner. We asked them, “What is the difference, in policy, between a folder and a board?” And they told us to our face that they didn’t know why their policy excludes our board, and then took it down anyways. They are aware, it seems everyone in their management is aware that what they’re doing is union busting. That has boiled out here.
RP: It seems like you guys have a lot of support.
M: Yeah! We’re super grateful for that. Like I said, we’re a store of twelve at this point, so we don’t exactly have the most bodies we can put out on the picket at one time just from our store. But we are so grateful for all the support we get from just community members, people who show up and see that we’re unionized and want to help out. The support from other unions around here is great.
RP: How long have you been working at this store, how long has it been unionized?
M: I’m a shift supervisor at this store, and I have worked here since it opened. We opened in July of 2021, and we won our union election a year ago today, which is also another reason we’re holding the strike today; this is like our birthday gift to ourselves.