Starbuck’s workers picket outside of the Biddeford location on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Workers at a Starbucks in Biddeford went on strike Monday to protest unfair labor practices they say they’ve encountered since voting to join a union.

The Biddeford location was the first in Maine to join Starbucks Workers United, which formed last year to represent Starbucks workers across the country. Workers at Biddeford’s Alfred Street location voted 9-3 in July to unionize. Workers at a Starbucks store in Portland have since taken steps to join the union.

Since the July vote, Biddeford workers say the company has engaged in unfair labor practices that include retaliation and cutting store hours. They picketed in front of the store on Labor Day holding signs that read “Pumpkin Strike Latte” and “People over profit.” The store was closed Monday because of the strike and the front door was plastered with “wanted” posters of CEO Howard Schultz, saying he is wanted “alive at the bargaining table.”

Ash Macomber, who led the union drive at the store, said management retaliated by throwing away union flyers and taking down posters about workers’ rights that she had hung in the break room. The store’s hours were recently cut – it now closes at 3 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. – and some workers have seen a big cut in hours, she said.

“The union-busting campaign has gone on for too long now,” she said.

The front door of the Biddeford Starbucks location, closed Monday, was plastered with “wanted” posters for Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Five workers from the store were joined by a half-dozen people from other unions who showed up to support the one-day strike. They cheered and waved their signs as passing cars and trucks honked.


Stephanie Elliott, who works at the store and helped with the organizing campaign, said she wasn’t surprised that the company would retaliate against workers nationally, but she didn’t necessary think it would happen in Biddeford.

“I was a little shocked it happened in our store because our store manager is incredible. It just doesn’t make sense,” she said, adding that she thinks false information and decision-making are coming from upper management.

In Portland, there was a “sip-in” at the Starbucks store in the Old Port on Monday to show solidarity with organizing workers.

A spokesperson for Starbucks said hours at individual stores may change based on market conditions and store traffic, but did not respond to retaliation allegations by Biddeford workers.

“Starbucks respects our partners. Partners have a right to lawfully participate in protests or events that are personally important to them. Partners do not represent Starbucks while engaging in protest activity. We remain committed to our partners and will continue to work together, side-by-side, to make Starbucks a company that works for everyone,” the company said in a statement.

Since voting to unionize in July, Biddeford Starbucks workers say the company has engaged in unfair labor practices that include retaliation and cutting store hours. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Organizing committee members in Biddeford mounted the union effort because of frustrations about constantly changing work schedules and fluctuating hours that caused many employees to leave. They say they have been forced to come to work when sick and have received little support from management in their efforts to protect themselves from COVID-19. Many employees picked up second jobs because their pay, which they say starts just above $14 an hour at the Biddeford store, fails to keep up with the rising cost of living, according to organizers.


In the past year, 325 of Starbucks’ 9,000 U.S. locations have filed for union elections, and 230 have voted to unionize. Workers at the Starbucks on the corner of Middle and Exchange streets in Portland notified the company last month that they intend to unionize, but a vote has not yet been held.

Similar campaigns to unionize have been launched at other major companies, including Amazon. In Maine, workers at Maine Medical Center, the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Museum of Art, Bates College, Waterville KVCAP, Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Transit and the Kittery Water District have voted to unionize in the past year.

Starbucks, based in Seattle, has criticized unionizing efforts. The National Labor Relations Board has issued 26 complaints against Starbucks, finding merit in 97 separate allegations encompassing 634 alleged violations of labor law.

Last July, the labor relations board found the company unlawfully retaliated against two Philadelphia baristas involved in union efforts. The board’s review showed that Starbucks closely monitored their public social media activity, attempted to gauge employees’ support for the organizing efforts and unlawfully spied on protected conversations between one of the baristas and other employees.

Starbuck’s workers picket outside of the Biddeford location on Monday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

A federal judge found on Aug. 18 that the firing of seven workers in February was illegal retaliation against their organizing efforts and ordered the company to rehire the baristas. Starbucks has appealed the decision and was granted a stay of the order pending the appeal.

On Aug. 25, the labor relations board issued a complaint alleging that Starbucks is illegally withholding benefits and raises at union stores. The board is seeking back pay for all affected workers and to compel Schultz to read and distribute a statement of apology and to affirm the rights of unionized workers.

Starbucks recently accused NLRB agents of helping Workers United win by manipulating the voting process during a union election in Kansas City, Kansas, Reuters reported. The board oversees union elections in the U.S.

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