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Brookline Starbucks strikers hit a month of fighting against unfair labor practices

The Starbucks at 874 Commonwealth Avenue. Unionized workers have been on strike outside the store since July 18 in protest of a hostile work environment. PERRY SOSI/DFP STAFF

Unionized workers of the Starbucks at 874 Commonwealth Avenue in Brookline have maintained a 24/7 picket line outside the store for 30 days despite heat waves and strike breaking tactics, said a Starbucks shift manager in an interview last Tuesday.

According to a July 18 statement from Boston Starbucks Workers United, employees at the 874 Starbucks store have been subjected to “a chaotic and hostile work environment” since the company hired their temporary store manager shortly after the store’s vote to unionize in June. 

Shift manager Spencer Costigan said protestors hold the picket line in order to prevent deliveries from reaching the store, which can be sent at odd hours to union bust.

“We get our food deliveries from the Teamsters and the teamsters have in their contract that they will not cross any picket lines,” they said. “So as long as there is somebody with a sign, picketing, they cannot deliver any food.”

Costigan said the Teamsters and other local unions have been “very supportive” and “overwhelmingly in favor” of their cause. The picket line has been strong for almost 30 days, despite extreme heat and other difficulties with striking.

“Even if you’re just sitting still all day, one hundred degrees is one hundred degrees,” Costigan said. “You can drink as much water as you want. You can stay as careful and in the shade as you want. It takes a toll on you.”

According to a July 23 press release, Starbucks intends to open the store at 874 Commonwealth Avenue as soon as it has enough staff members to do so, although the company “respects the rights of workers to participate in a legally protected strike without retaliation.”

However, protestors at the store intend to maintain the 24/7 picket, so even if Starbucks finds enough employees to reopen the location, the store still will not be able to operate, Costigan said. 

Ricky Sanchez, a member of the Harvard Graduate Students Union, said she took a shift on the line to support the union’s cause after unionizing workers reached out to the local community.

“Most unionized or unionizing workers in the [Massachusetts] area have been following the fight pretty closely,” she said. 

The Starbucks protestors have also been supported by an outpouring of food donations and strike funding from local organizations and individuals across Boston. 

In addition, Mayor Michelle Wu and Senator Elizabeth Warren posted about the strike on their Twitter and Instagram, respectively. 

Anthony Adisa, a Workers World Party Community Organizer, said he and others are motivated by their “collective, extreme dislike for [Starbucks CEO] Howard Schultz.”

“It’s in all of the things that he’s doing specifically against Starbucks workers… that being union busting.” he said.

Costigan said the new manager demanded workers expand their availability while cutting their hours, and this was a way to “further monopolize people’s time.”

“This is another classic tactic that companies love to use to get rid of unions, or to limit their power,” Costigan said. “They flood the store with new hires, to water down any union support, then they try to force out long standing employees.”

Starbucks has even asked employees of the Commonwealth Avenue store to come into work despite the protest, but all of these employees have declined the request, Costigan said. 

“Every time management calls around, it just brings us closer together,” Costigan said. “Because it just proves that they really do fear what we are capable of.” 

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