Leesburg Starbucks unionizes, protests ‘unfair labor practices’

Memorial Day weekend in Loudoun County may be slightly low on caffeine as the Starbucks union begins a weekend-long protest of what they deemed unfair labor practices by their company’s management.

The protest started after 5:30 a.m. on Saturday with a picket line formed outside the Starbucks on East Market Street.

One of the store’s picketing employees, Richard Griffith, told WTOP that the management changes and hourly shortage were a severe concern for union members.

Protestors outside of the Starbucks in Leesburg, Virginia. (Courtesy Stephanie Jackson)

“They’ve cut our hours quite severely,” Griffith said, “just over the course of the past few months.”

Griffith said that employees are concerned as scheduled shifts fall below the hourly threshold to be eligible for benefits like health insurance — a major problem for baristas.

With the successful vote to unionize and support from other recently unionized stores, Griffith says employees have also seen a significant shift in management impacting their finances.

“We feel like we aren’t being given anyone’s full attention,” Griffith told WTOP. “…We were told that it would get better. And I guess — maybe we shouldn’t have believed them.”

When asked to respond to concerns that unionizing can cause retaliation and the potential for protests to limit access to hourly pay, Griffith said that employees are making the right move. They enjoy the job, their coworkers and the autonomy that they have gained.

“We really do want to make it better,” Griffith said. “Rather than quit and find something else, we really do want to do what we can to make it better and make it work for ourselves.”

The Leesburg Starbucks location on East Market Street plans to strike on Saturday and Sunday, which Griffith said are the busiest days of the week for their store.

Griffith said that picketers were not deterred by management during Saturday’s strike.

On Monday, a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement that “We have fully honored the process laid out by the NLRB and encouraged our partners to exercise their right to vote in the election to have their voices heard.”

Regarding the reduction in hours, the spokesperson said, “We are navigating unexpected shifts in the business — just like most companies across the world. This includes managing labor forecasts in the near-term, which may – among other adjustments – include a potential reduction in hours for some partners. There is no blanket approach. We continue to have thoughtful 1:1 conversations with local leaders to see what adjustments need to be made for the business.

“Through this, we have continued our critical partner care investments – tenured wage increases, increased start rates in critical markets, and extending self-isolation pay and COVID benefits – as these remain critical to our partners’ well-being.”

WTOP’s Mike Murillo contributed to this report.

Ivy Lyons

Ivy Lyons is a digital journalist for WTOP.com. Since 2018, they have worked on Capitol Hill, at NBC News in Washington, and with WJLA in Washington.

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