SINCE 1988

Starbucks’ Reusable Red Cup Day Returns Amid Planned Union Protests


Starbucks announced on Nov. 15 the return of Red Cup Day — the unofficial start of the Starbucks holiday season, return of the festive drinks in red cups, and annual red cup giveaway — on Thurs., Nov. 16th. Red Cup Day is typically one of the busiest days of the company’s calendar year, and in 2023, might hit a few snags, as Starbucks Workers United is planning a series of barista strikes around the country on Thursday.

Starbucks Red Cup Day’s giveaway is annual tradition where the company gives away free limited-edition reusable red holiday cups to customers who order any size of a holiday beverage, while supplies last. This is the sixth year for the Starbucks reusable red cup, which this year is made from 75% recycled content and features a design of ornament baubles. Customers who bring in their reusable cup again will receive $0.10 off for future purchases (and 25 stars for Rewards members) as part of Starbucks’ reusables program.

Last year, Workers United planned similar protests on Red Cup Day in opposition to ongoing unfair labor practices. This year, using the hashtag #RedCupRebellion, the union is hoping to get thousands of baristas involved in walkouts in order to call attention to lack of employee resources on Red Cup Day, as well as other labor issues in general.

“Red Cup Day is a notoriously difficult day for Starbucks employees because the company consistently staffs us poorly,” one Seattle barista explained in a video posted to Twitter. “It’s a day where workers are given a limited supply of product and the public is given one day to purchase it, resulting in frustrated, angry customers who lash out and even yell at employees.”

The protests ahead of the popular day of giveaways and celebration of new holiday drinks stands in stark contrast to the positive media attention around Red Cup Day. The fourth quarter is usually one of the highest performing quarters of Starbucks’ fiscal year, because of both the fall-themed drinks and holiday lineup, including Red Cup Day. Ramping up to Red Cup Day, Starbucks announced 3% raises for non-union baristas, with unionized employees subject to collective bargaining for unionized stores.


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