Workers Strike over Claims of Sanitary Neglect in Chelsea’s Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Picture taken from outside the establishment showing workers and volunteers protesting on October 27

Picture taken from outside the establishment showing workers and volunteers protesting on October 27

Mannat Kaur, News Staff Writer

Workers at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in Chelsea, the company’s New York flagship location, recently went on strike outside the front entrance over a potential pest problem. Located at 61 9th Avenue, Starbucks Reserve Roastery, became the first New York City Starbucks to unionize this year.

“For months there’s been mold in our ice system, fruit flies in food, and recently we found bed bugs in our break room,” said Thalia, an employee at the Reserve location. This issue was evidently ignored by the management, who “has done nothing about it and is forcing us to work in those contaminated conditions,” she added. 

On Wednesday, October 26, management said that black mold had been discovered leaking in the back-of-house retail room, where the store keeps its merchandise. Roastery locations also have a wider variety of drinks and food available, meaning consumers stand a higher chance of getting infected by the unsanitary working conditions. Workers outside the premises attempted to dissuade customers from entering the building by yelling, displaying posters, and banging drums to get their attention. Many people on the streets joined the chants of, “Mold in our ice, bed bugs in our break room!”

“We were told it is our fault there is mold in the machines, and were told to start cleaning ourselves. We cleaned those machines for so long and became sick from it; the mold is growing on the insides of those machines,” bartender Ashely Carrigan said. “I can’t imagine what the customers might go through if they ingest that food,” Carrigan added. “It’s clearly poison.”                      

Ms. Mendez, 9th Grade Global History teacher, called the incident “frankly very shocking.” 

Sophomore Julia Godwin said, “I loved going to the roastery for all the facilities it offers, but I will definitely be hesitant ordering coffee again from there.”

One of the many posters made by protesters highlighting health issues inside the store.

Another sophomore, Kelly Dang, said she would refuse to buy products from the Roastery, and described the mold as “disgusting.” 

“Workers are not being compensated, the management is not clear to us; they are trying to manipulate us, which we’re not standing at all!” remarked Skai, a protester at the Reserve, who stated  that her most important goal is “to make sure my customers are healthy. They are my most important priority.” 

Many of the workers confessed that they don’t even get paid for some of the work they do, but they still do it because they care. “The provider visited the Roastery location and found no infestation or insect activity. The pest control service gave the location the all-clear to re-open this morning,” said Jake, a worker protesting. He said this was untrue, showing pictures employees took of the ice machines and the break room. 

Fortunately, all workers on strike still get paid up to 70% of their income by local unions. Many individuals have also been donating in the name of “NYC Starbucks Roastery Hardship Fund” on GoFundMe. This exists to help the workers on strike pay for expenses, including rent and bills.