BERKELEY, Calif. - Starbucks workers in Berkeley went on strike Friday amid what they say are unsafe working conditions, including no air conditioning in the sweltering heat.
The one-day strike at the downtown Starbucks on Shattuck Avenue came after several days of 80-degree temperatures inside the store and a broken air conditioner, employees said. About a dozen workers walked off the job and the store was closed.
Instead, they stood outside the store chanting, "No pumpkin spice until they play nice," and "No A/C, no coffee!"
"They did not even try to open the store without us today," Starbucks shift supervisor Jack Miller said. "I believe that the workers here clearly hold all the power."
The store is one of 350 stores in 38 states that have unionized over the last two years. The small group of workers in Berkeley said they’re leveraging their union power to push for changes including a demand that if the temperature in the store is above 77 degrees, they can close and still be paid for full shifts.
"It’s really draining, and it’s really difficult," Miller said. "We’re working back there with all of our machines. We’ve got ovens going… of course the hottest part of the store is the part we’re working in."
While the building is equipped with air conditioning, employees said Friday it has been unreliable and broken since late July. Temporary fixes did not cool them down, barista and supervisor Amanda Cameli said.
"I myself was feeling dizzy," she said. "People on the floor were feeling ill from the heat. One of our coworkers in fact was hospitalized."
Starbucks told KTVU on Saturday it has existing plans to begin renovations at the store in Nov. 2023.
"Following reports of facility issues caused by nearby construction, local leaders temporarily closed our Shattuck store in Berkeley," the company said in a statement.
Workers also want fixes to what they see as a scheduling nightmare with claims some UC Berkeley students are forced to choose work over class. In contrast, other employees, they say, are not regularly scheduled or working inadequate hours.
"I know that some of my coworkers are being understaffed and are struggling to make their rent payments," said Cameli.
Another push by the union workers is for a more open and inclusive dress code. They claim some employees have been dismissed or disciplined for wearing certain clothing, including those promoting pro-union views or LGBTQ+ pride.
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The Starbucks store is in a larger building that is currently being renovated. Construction recently knocked out the power to the store’s storage room that now remains dark.
"We need lights in the storage room," Miller said. "We’re lifting 20-pound boxes in there. There needs to be a light."
The managers’ solution was to pile everything up, almost everywhere in the café lobby including boxes of coffee, cups, napkins and other coffee-related products, the workers said. KTVU found that much of it can be seen through the front windows from the sidewalk.
Starbucks said the store would remain closed as they evaluate their options in rectifying the issue. Workers are being offered shifts at nearby locations, the company said.
The workers argue it’s not safe for anyone to walk around inside the Shattuck Avenue store. They asked community members Friday to sign a petition in solidarity with them as they try to force changes. So far, they've received dozens of signatures.
"I hope change can be made," Cameli said. "I want to be in this store working, but I want everyone to feel safe and comfortable."