‘Red Cup Rebellion’: Starbucks employees walkout in Jacksonville

Carter Mudgett and Justin Nedrow

Starbucks employees with Starbucks Workers United—a workers union—went on strike on Thursday at two store locations in Jacksonville, joining thousands of other workers across the country on one of the company’s busiest days of the holiday season. 

On Red Cup Day, Starbucks gives out free, limited-edition holiday-themed reusable cups. It’s the day that marks the start of the holiday season for the company and the day its holiday menu launches. 

This year is Starbucks’ 25th anniversary of red holiday cups, originally making their debut in 1997. It’s one of the coffee giant’s most profitable days of the year, NPR reported.

The day is more than the start of the holiday season for Starbucks and, according to workers, it’s also one of their busiest days. Because of the cup’s limited-edition nature, customers often line up early—even before the sun is up—to get their hands on one. 

Employees participating in the strikes are handing out red cups with the union logo on them, including the San Jose location in Jacksonville.

“We’re a unionized store, and we are on a UL peace strike, or an unfair labor practice,” Mason Boykin, 24, a shift supervisor and union leader of the San Jose and Ricky Dr. location, told Spinnaker. “It’s a general strike demanding that Starbucks meet us at the bargaining table and bargain in good faith.”

A University of North Florida graduate who has worked at Starbucks for three and a half years, Boykin co-wrote a letter to Starbucks stating their intent to unionize in February. It would later become the first Starbucks to unionize in Jacksonville.

Boykin said the workers union was supposed to meet with the company to negotiate their first contract in October but were ghosted and haven’t heard anything since. 

“No reason why and no further proposed dates, so we’re here demanding they meet us at the table and start negotiating for our first contract,” they said. 

Mason Boykin protests in front of the San Jose & Ricky Dr. Starbucks location in Jacksonville on Thursday. (Justin Nedrow)

“The biggest issue is that Starbucks still hasn’t recognized our union and sat down with us to actually bargain, so they play all these ambiguous games about, like, they won’t say the word strike,” Hannah Crabill, 23, another shift supervisor at the San Jose Starbucks location, told Spinnaker. 

Crabill has worked at the San Jose Starbucks location for just over three years and said that they didn’t even want to go into the specific issues they’re looking to address because it keeps being ignored. 

“They’re continually stalling,” Crabill said. “I’d love to get more into what we’d even be bargaining for, but it doesn’t even matter because it’s being prolonged. It’s taking us so long to go through these processes.”

Hannah Crabill protests in front of the San Jose & Ricky Dr. Starbucks location in Jacksonville on Thursday. (Justin Nedrow)

At other locations in America, workers say they’re also seeking better pay, more consistent schedules and higher staffing levels in busy stores, the Associated Press reported. Stores in 25 states planned to take part in the labor action, according to Starbucks Workers United.

Starbucks, which opposes unionization efforts, released a statement that said it is aware of the walkouts and respects employees’ right to protest lawfully. The coffee giant noted that the protests are happening at a small number of its 9,000 company-run U.S. locations, the Associated Press reported.

“We remain committed to all partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” Starbucks wrote in a statement Thursday. 

Strikes were planned for both the San Jose and San Marco Starbucks locations in Jacksonville. Employees at the San Jose Starbucks told Spinnaker that no employees showed up to work at the San Marco location, so it was closed.


For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].