Independence Starbucks workers strike over the company’s threat to withhold

Starbucks workers at the 39th Street storefront in Independence went on strike Wednesday to protest the company’s threat to withhold health care amidst union negotiations. Workers say Starbucks corporate is threatening to withhold travel benefits for abortion and gender-affirming care to unionizing stores in states where that health care is banned.

The store at 39th Street and Arrowhead Avenue became the first café in Missouri to unionize in April.

Workers planned the strike — which took place from 4-8 p.m. — to take place alongside Planned Parenthood’s national walkout against the overturning of Roe v. Wade at the same time.

Skylar Mickey is a barista at the café and organized the strike. She said she’s angry that she might not receive vital health care because she belongs to a union.

“I understand that Missouri had trigger laws in place, but Starbucks not being willing to help us out, especially because they’re willing to help other stores that aren’t unionized is just union busting,” Mickey said. “There’s no other answer to that.”

In June, Starbucks said that it will reimburse abortion travel expenses for employees enrolled in the company’s health care plan if there isn’t a legal provider in the worker’s state or within 100 miles of their home.

But the company also said it couldn’t “make promises of guarantees about any benefits” for unionized stores due to the bargaining process.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.

A sign placed in the middle of the Starbucks drive-thru lane reads:

Savannah Hawley


KCUR 89.3

Workers closed the Starbucks store in Independence from 4-8 p.m. on strike against the company’s alleged unfair labor practices.

“The contract, I think, is definitely being held against us,” Mickey said. “We really haven’t made a lot of progress, especially due to the amount of union busting in our store. Our upper management is not pro-union, obviously, so stuff like that is a big part of what’s preventing us from getting a contract.”

Mickey said management has been cutting hours to prevent workers from being eligible for the health care program that includes the benefits for abortion and gender-affirming care.

Other area Starbucks workers have made similar allegations about the company’s union-busting tactics. In May, The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against two other area Starbucks — a café at 75th Street & I-35 in Overland Park and the store on the Country Club Plaza — for preventing employees from exercising their legal right to organize.

Mickey said for many employees at the storefront, where starting pay is $12 an hour, it’s unaffordable to be a part of the health care program.

“Any worker here who’s capable of being pregnant or is in need of gender-affirming care is definitely at risk here with these benefits being threatened just for being part of a union store,” Mickey said. “If one of us were to need that…

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