A group of people crossing the street
Three dozen video game workers gathered in front of Moscone Center today in solidarity with infuriated Starbucks workers across the country. Photo by Yujie Zhou. Taken March 23, 2023.

Three dozen video game-industry workers gathered in front of Moscone Center today in solidarity with infuriated Starbucks workers across the country.

As the latest blow in a series of union-busting controversies, a federal judge earlier this month found that Starbucks had violated labor laws “hundreds of times.” With the company’s annual shareholder meeting approaching, union workers walked off the job at 100 Starbucks locations across the country, including yesterday in front of its headquarters in Seattle, Washington.

“What’s disgusting? Union busting!” they chanted outside the Starbucks location at Third and Howard streets in SoMa. The majority of the demonstrators were members of Communications Workers of America (CWA), who had just come out of their booths inside the Moscone Center. 

They were on hand to attend the 2023 Game Developers Conference, and fellow attendees emerged with them just after noon into a scrum of demonstrators handing out flyers that began with “Dear Starbucks CEO” and ended with “Sincerely, Your Customers.”

Passersby were encouraged to hand the letter to staff at any Starbucks they went to, in the hope that those who received the letter might be able to pass on that pressure to management. The letter reads, “We are Starbucks customers attending the Game Developers’ Conference in San Francisco this week. We are writing in solidarity with Starbucks workers who have been fighting for a voice on the job, and have faced disrespect and severe union-busting in return.”

“We just want management to feel the pressure, the solidarity across the labor movement, across sectors,” said Leslie Fine, a CWA organizer who appeared optimistic, even though most of the people with ID badges simply glanced at them curiously and hurried away. Another organizer at the site expected every one of the nearly 300 Starbucks that have voted to unionize would receive letters today. 

A letter was also delivered to the Third and Howard Starbucks (which has not yet voted to unionize) by demonstrators. “The manager accepted our letter, not super hyped about it,” said Autumn Mitchell, a Microsoft employee. “But hopefully there will be some reconsideration and a passing on of the message, which is, ‘let workers unionize.’”

 “We’re right across the street,” added Frank Arce, vice president of CWA District 9, which covers California, Nevada and Hawaii. “There’s a rally. We come to support labor.” 

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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1 Comment

  1. Three-dozen video game-industry workers protested in front of a Starbucks.
    There would have been hundreds of video game-industry workers at the convention along with thousands of visitors. It would have taken very little effort to show support for these Starbuck employees.
    This pathetic level of activism is about all the North American labour movement can muster. It has been that way since I was involved with labour unions forty-five years ago.

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