In a bold move that shook coffee lovers nationwide, Starbucks employees from hundreds of stores across the country walked out on a pivotal promotional day, demanding better treatment and conditions. Red Cup Day, a day traditionally associated with holiday cheer, turned into a call for justice as workers voiced their concerns.

Amid the backdrop of recent victories by the United Auto Workers Union, which saw factories shutting down and automakers making unprecedented concessions, Starbucks employees found their own voice. While some may deem their demands excessive, it’s important to consider the immense profits generated by the coffee giant and the toll it takes on its workforce.

Red Cup Day, a cherished event for Starbucks enthusiasts, involves the distribution of free red, reusable holiday-themed cups with every coffee purchase. As expected, this promotion attracts a surge in customers, necessitating fully staffed stores. However, this year, the walkout threatened to disrupt business as employees demanded improved staffing and schedules.

Despite the walkout, Starbucks reported that more than half of its stores remained open and continued to serve customers. While some stores were affected, the impact fell short of bringing the company to a halt.

Red Cup Day holds significant importance for Starbucks, with data showing a 94% increase in visits to US Starbucks locations on that day compared to the daily average for the year. Even as workers picketed outside the Astor Place store in New York, business proceeded as usual inside, with orders being filled promptly.

Workers United, the union representing over 9,000 Starbucks employees at about 360 stores nationwide, voiced their concerns about the challenging working conditions on Red Cup Day. Employees frequently endure long wait times and sometimes face abuse from impatient customers.

Mary Boca, a barista in New York City, emphasized the need for higher pay and additional staff at her store. She pointed out Starbucks’ policy of not allowing tipping, which could provide an extra income boost for employees. Boca stated, “I’ve heard our managers say they need to hire 12 people. During peak hours, that’s a significant staff shortage.”

The staffing issue may be exacerbated by potential employees seeking opportunities elsewhere due to the absence of tipping income. Workers contend that Starbucks has made promises but has yet to deliver on improving their conditions.

A Chicago-based employee added, “They’ve made grand promises, but they haven’t followed through. Just imagine the complex Starbucks orders, one after another. We’re understaffed, underpaid, and we’ve had enough.”

Starbucks operates nearly 10,000 US company-owned stores, with less than 3% represented by a union, according to the Seattle-based coffee giant. Even a walkout on the busiest day of the year is unlikely to bring immediate changes in terms of pay and staffing.

While Starbucks employees may not be building cars like their counterparts in the auto industry, their grievances are legitimate, and their concerns are valid. However, for real change to occur, they will need to bolster their union membership and continue advocating for their rights.

As we reflect on the events of Red Cup Day, it’s clear that Starbucks employees are determined to make their voices heard. Their demands for fair treatment, better pay, and improved working conditions resonate with the wider conversation about workers’ rights in America. The question remains: Will Starbucks take meaningful steps to address these concerns and ensure a brighter future for its employees?

In the end, whether you prefer your coffee decaf grande non-fat, three-and-a-half Splenda mocha with no whip or any other intricate concoction, it’s essential to remember the hardworking individuals behind the counter who make it all possible.