In solidarity with Starbucks, Amazon and all worker organizing, the Support Amazon Workers Network declared Feb. 26 a “Workers Power Day.” That day, the 10th anniversary of the racist murder of Trayvon Martin, was chosen to link the struggle for worker rights to the struggle against racism. Actions were held in multiple cities. Activists also opposed Washington’s push for war against Russia, some with the slogan: “Union contracts, not military contracts!”
Demonstrators protested the firings of seven Starbucks union organizers — most of them Black and Brown — in Memphis, Tennessee, and another organizer in Buffalo, New York, along with the racist arrest of three Black Amazon Labor Union organizers in Staten Island, New York. Starbucks sent a memo to U.S. employees denying that Cassie Fleischer had been fired from the Elmwood store in Buffalo — the first in the U.S. to unionize. But Fleischer recorded her own firing meeting and has exposed the company’s lies.
The Starbucks union drive continues to gain momentum with 100+ stores filing for representation elections and a big 25-3 vote for Starbucks Workers United at the Mesa, Arizona, store.
A spirited crowd filled Boston’s snow-packed City Hall Plaza, bringing song and solidarity to a powerful delegation of union-minded Starbucks baristas. Workers World Party youth leader Kristen Turgeon kicked off the rally with a rousing antiwar version of “Union Maid”: “Biden wants us for his wars . . . Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking with the Union!” dedicated to the fired Memphis 7 and Cassie Fleischer.
Jean-Luc Pierite, of the United American Indians of New England, placed this blossoming struggle against corporate greed squarely on Indigenous lands. Dr. Padma Balasubramanian of Boston’s South Asian Coalition stressed the global struggle for workers’ rights at Amazon. John Buonopane of United Steelworkers (USW) District 4 pledged his International’s resources to the fight. Anthony McWhorter, Young Black Panther Party, linked Trayvon Martin’s murder and the uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement with Starbucks’ targeted firings and the baristas’ fightback, demanding “Rehire the Memphis 7, now!”
Jamie Wallace, president of Boston’s Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) chapter, came down on break from his skyscraper job to lead the crowd in chanting, “The power of the people is greater than the people in power!” Solidarity came from Harvard dining hall workers, Pride At Work, union baristas from the Darwin’s Ltd. and City Feed coffee shops, Boston School Bus Drivers USW Local 8751, Democratic Socialists of America-Labor Working Group, diverse elder and young socialists and disability rights activists.
The rally then turned itself into a union flying squadron, marching through Boston’s downtown streets singing “Solidarity Forever!” Throughout the route, hundreds of shoppers, tourists and store workers raised fists and honked to the demands “Raise wages, not war!” and “What do we want? Union! When do we want it? Now!”
Workers Power in multiple cities
An action at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, was co-sponsored by the New York City CBTU, Workers Assembly Against Racism, Amazon Labor Union and the December 12th Movement. ALU President Chris Smalls, joined by Amazon workers Brett Daniels and Jason Anthony, described their arrest by the New York Police Department as they were delivering free food to the workers. An election to determine if ALU will represent workers at two Staten Island warehouses will take place March 26-30. Charles Jenkins, Transport Workers Union Local 100 officer and president of the New York City Chapter of CBTU, chaired the rally.
Over 50 people rallied outside Whole Foods at 10th and South streets in Philadelphia. Participants included members and speakers from Temple Association of University Professors, Philadelphia Boricua, National Nurses United, Industrial Workers of the World, Workers World Party, Black Alliance for Peace (BAP), Socialist Resistance and DSA-Philadelphia. Chairing the event, Teddie Kelly of WWP read a statement from ALU president Chris Smalls on the union-busting tactics of Amazon management, leading to his and the other organizers’ arrests.
Scott Williams represented Workers Solidarity Network, which initiated the Feb. 26 action. He read a statement from Cassie Fleischer, the recently fired Starbucks organizer. Deandra Price from BAP voiced opposition to the latest U.S. war efforts against Russia, urging workers to be alert to the growing dangers of fascism. Michael Wilson, a retired postal worker, mesmerized the crowd with his account of the impact of poverty, gentrification and racism on the city’s working class. During the rally several workers from Whole Foods came by to voice their own interest in unionizing.
Activists in Cleveland gathered downtown, stopping at the local office of union-busting law firm Littler Mendelson, which is representing Starbucks against Starbucks Workers United.
Starbucks workers are currently unionizing at three locations in Portland, Oregon. WWP’s local branch held a solidarity event for the ongoing union drive at the Cedar Hills Jenkins Starbucks store. One worker told WWP that the intimidation tactics used by management have not succeeded in breaking the resolve of the workers.
Actions were also held in San Luis Obispo, California; New Haven, Connecticut; New Orleans; Hadley, Massachusetts; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Buffalo’s action was postponed due to a massive blizzard.
The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union rallied on Feb. 26 in Bessemer, Alabama, where Amazon workers are currently voting in a union representation election.
Despite the compromised environment of intimidation created by management’s dirty and illegal union-busting tactics, workers were able to connect in solidarity through all of these actions.
Steve Gillis, Danny O’Brien, Betsey Piette and Brenda Sandburg contributed to this article.