Local News

Cleveland Circle Starbucks employees strike after water leak

"Management ignored these obvious safety hazards."

Rafi McCoy, a Starbucks employee, sits on a bench with Dunkin Donuts coffee and a pastry during a protest at the Cleveland Circle Starbucks location. David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Workers at the Starbucks in Cleveland Circle went on strike Tuesday in order to protest what they say were unsafe working conditions and a failure by management to protect employees. 

The details of those conditions were outlined in a letter to management signed by 14 workers. They claim that Starbucks management asked the employees to remain at work despite water leaking through the ceiling and lighting fixtures onto espresso machines, countertops, the floor, and the workers themselves. 

“Management ignored these obvious safety hazards and told workers to continue working for several hours while water continued to leak onto electrical appliances and pool on the floors,” employees stated in the letter.

This infrastructure issue has been a problem multiple times over the past couple of years, according to the letter, and management has failed to present a proper solution. Workers are then left with “no choice” but to do their jobs while risking ceiling tiles possibly falling on them or slipping and falling on wet floors. 


The chain “moved quickly” to resolve the concerns, a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement to The Boston Globe. Rain started leaking through the coffeeshop roof Saturday, leading management to close the café lobby to customers and switch to solely grab-and-go service.

Workers then arrived Monday morning to fix the leak, but encountered “a drainage issue with the HVAC system,” the spokesperson told the Globe. This caused water to leak onto the espresso bar. 

The spokesperson told the Globe that other parts of the store were not impacted, but images posted by Boston Starbucks Workers United on Twitter show water pooling throughout the store. 

Once the store closed because of the leak, employees were left without answers about whether or not they will receive catastrophe pay for the sudden closure, according to the letter. 

“To ensure the safety of our partners and customers, local leaders immediately closed the store yesterday and gave the partners the opportunity to pick up shifts at other stores. Store leaders shared details of our catastrophe pay policy with partners before they left the store yesterday. This policy has also been shared with partners on two other occasions this year,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement, according to CBS Boston. 


Employees claim managers tried to get them to work a dry part of the store in an effort to keep it open, CBS Boston reported

A shift manager told the Globe that employees held an impromptu meeting on Monday afternoon, when they decided to strike. This was prompted by unanswered calls to management, since the workers could not determine whether or not it would be safe to return to the store on Tuesday.

The employees are planning to return to work on Wednesday as long as the necessary maintenance has been completed and their safety is ensured, according to the letter. 

In April, Starbucks workers at the Harvard Street location in Brookline and at the Commonwealth Avenue location in Allston unanimously voted to form unions. In early May, workers from locations in Cleveland Circle, lower Allston, Watertown, and Beth Israel followed suit. 

Also in early May, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that a new training and pay increases would not apply to recently unionized stores, or those in the process of unionizing, The New York Times reported

Longstanding complaints about understaffing and erratic hours led Starbucks workers in Buffalo to create the chain’s first union last December. Baristas throughout the country followed suit, and Starbucks Workers United announced on May 27 that a location in Seattle became the 100th store to unionize in the U.S.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com