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Starbucks employees in Urbana strike over LGBTQ and economic concerns

URBANA – Like a projected 3,000 peers across the country, employees at the only unionized Starbucks location in east central Illinois went on strike this weekend to protest the company’s policy on Pride decorations. 

However, union members said it much much more than that. They want Starbucks to cease their campaign against unions – a campaign they say has significantly impacted LGBTQIA+ workers. 

“They are really scared of unionized stores and people who are for unions,” said Urbana Strike Captain and Shift Supervisor Wednesday Cotton.

In a released statement, Starbucks said they have always supported their LGBTQIA+ employees and that the unions are “spreading misinformation.” Since 2012, Starbucks has offered insurance that covers gender reassignment surgery. In 2022, the company promised to reimburse those who have to travel out of state to find legal gender affirming care. 

One of the strike captains and shift supervisors, Dalton Toberman, said the union’s claims aren’t misinformation — and that the company has even threatened to take away trans-related healthcare for unionizing.

“They like to tokenize all of their queer workers, but it’s clear that they don’t care about us when they exploit us constantly,” said Toberman. 

He said that their store is understaffed and their workers are overworked. 

“People have been having to skip their breaks because there aren’t enough people working,” said Toberman. “People have been having to come in on days off because there’s not enough people working.”

He said that they have tried voicing their complaints, and they have never been addressed by management or corporate. 

“One of the struggles nationwide that’s been happening with the contract is getting them to sit down to negotiate at all. It has been next to impossible,” said Toberman.

Unionized employees are demanding to be treated better. They want better health care, expanded paid time off and much more  – including the right to organize.

“We’re striking to show people that Starbucks can’t just pretend. They have to actually be supportive of the LGBT community,” said Cotton.

Mae Antar

Mae Antar

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