Workers at Starbucks in Cleveland Circle went on strike Tuesday to protest what they say are unsafe working conditions and management’s failure to protect employees.
The details of these conditions have been set out in a management letter signed by 14 workers. They claim Starbucks management asked employees to stay on the job despite water leaking through the ceiling and light fixtures onto espresso machines, counters, the floor and the workers themselves.
“Management ignored these obvious safety hazards and told workers to keep working for several hours while water continued to run over electrical appliances and pool floors,” the employees said in the letter. .
This infrastructure problem has been a problem several times over the past two years, according to the letter, and management has failed to present a proper solution. Workers then have “no choice” but to do their job while risking falling ceiling tiles or slipping and falling on wet floors.
The chain “acted quickly” to resolve the issues, a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement to The Boston Globe. Rain began seeping through the cafe’s roof on Saturday, leading management to close the cafe’s lobby to customers and switch to take-out service only.
Workers then arrived Monday morning to fix the leak, but encountered “a drainage issue with the HVAC system,” the spokesperson told the World. This caused a water leak on the espresso bar.
The spokesperson told the Globe that other parts of the store were unaffected, but footage posted by Boston Starbucks Workers United on Twitter shows water pooling throughout the store.
After the store closed due to the leak, employees were left with no answers as to whether or not they would receive catastrophe pay for the sudden closure, according to the letter.
“To keep our partners and customers safe, local leaders immediately closed the store yesterday and gave partners the option of taking shifts at other stores. Store managers shared details of our policy disaster compensation policy with our partners before they left the store yesterday. This policy was also shared with partners on two other occasions this year,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement, according to CBS. Boston.
Employees say officials tried to get them to work in a dry part of the store in an effort to keep it open, CBS Boston reported.
A shift supervisor told the World that the employees held an impromptu meeting on Monday afternoon when they decided to strike. This was prompted by unanswered calls to management as workers could not determine whether or not it would be safe to return to the store on Tuesday.
Employees plan to return to work on Wednesday as long as necessary maintenance has been completed and their safety is assured, according to the letter.
In April, Starbucks workers at the Harvard Street location in Brookline and the Commonwealth Avenue location in Allston voted unanimously to form unions. In early May, workers from Cleveland Circle, Lower Allston, Watertown and Beth Israel followed suit.
Also in early May, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that new training and wage increases would not apply to newly unionized or unionizing stores. The New York Times reported.
Longstanding complaints about understaffing and irregular hours led Starbucks workers in Buffalo to form the chain’s first union last December. Baristas across the country have followed suit and Starbucks Workers United announcement on May 27, a location in Seattle became the 100th store to unionize in the United States
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