Starbucks workers across the country made headlines recently with a walkout dubbed the “Red Cup Rebellion.” The labor strike was timed with “red cup day,” the annual debut of the ubiquitous coffee chain’s popular holiday-themed cups. It’s the latest in a sequence of actions Starbucks employees have been taking in an effort to form unions in the stores and advocate for the rights of these retail workers.

Starbucks stores are most commonly thought of as the commercial infrastructure of big cities and suburban shopping centers, but they have a presence in rural America too. Graphic Journalist Nhatt Nichols takes a closer look at how the labor momentum seen across the Starbucks empire is making ripples in small towns and rural outposts too.

Comic panel shows a Starbucks storefront and reads: Starbucks employees have been making national news by trying to unionize in places like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.
Comic panel shows a Starbucks logo in a tall grass field and reads: But it isn't only happening in big cities; rural and small-town baristas are also fighting for workers' rights.
Comic panel shows a man in a union t-shirt and reads In Scottsboro, Alabama, union organizer Garrett Ellison is no stranger to the benefits of unionization, his father is in the local International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Comic panel shows man saying: We always had great health insurance, and the benefits from the union were always outstanding, better than the jobs around here that weren't unionized.
Comic panel shows man saying: During the 2008 stock market crash, when jobs were scarce, the union made sure my dad had a job.
Comic panel shows customers in a coffee shop and reads: When Starbucks opened a store in Scottsboro last year, it was immediately overwhelmed with customers and experienced understaffing issues.
Comic panel shows a pair of hands holding coffee beans and reads: The stress of that situation meant two things: that the store pulled together and felt like a family
Comic panel shows a union march and reads: and that Garrett and a handful of other employees knew a union would help protect their interests.
Comic panel shows a welcome to Scottsboro sign and reads: Though their part of the south tends to be conservative and anti-union, organizers in Scottsboro have received a surprising amount of community support.
Comic panel shows Garrett saying: When we went public about unionizing, we thought people would have a negative outlook, and there were people who were like,
Comic shows people saying: Why are they unionizing? It's just going to make the coffee more expensive. Why are they getting a union? They don't deserve it, they make coffee.
Comic shows Garrett saying: But we were shocked because people were also presenting positive facts about unions, and in our drive-through and cafe, they were showing support, saying, oh my god, we're so glad you're unionizing. That's so cool.
Comic panel shows a coffee cup and reads: The unionization effort in Scottsboro has been supported by more than just customers. Union members from other industries have come to their pro-union sip-ins, wearing their union shirts and tipping well.
Comic panel shows Garrett and reads: Starbucks is currently contesting the vote in the store, but Garrett, who was fired alongside other pro-union organizers, is hopeful. Garrett says, If I just gave up after being fired, I felt like I would be giving up on the partners in the store. Because I know I want it better for them, I'm not giving up.
Comic panel shows a smiling woman and reads: In Snohomish, Washington, Katie McCoy feels the same about her store.
Comic panel shows a union picket and reads: The only thing Katie knew about unions was what she learned in school, but after learning about union organizing at a Starbucks in Buffalo, Katie and her coworkers went on a three-day strike. By the end of the strike, they had collected enough union cards and petitioned to file for unionization.
Comic panel shows skyline of Seattle and reads: Katie has noticed a lot of differences between her experiences and those of her peers from Seattle.
Comic panel shows Katie saying: It's definitely a lot different. Trying to get coworkers on board is harder; more people aren't educated on what a union is in rural Washington. There was a lot of this is what a union does, and this is how it helps us get the things we need as workers.
Comic panel shows Katie saying: Many people in rural areas believe it's something that just takes money from you, but once they understand what union dues can do, they're like, OK.
Comic panel shows a coffee cup with an IBEW logo on it and reads: Katie's store has been supported by IBEW. They've let organizers use their union space for meetings since the store manager won't let them meet there.
Comic panel shows a selfie photo at a picket and reads: John Traynor, the political director for IBEW 191 said that when Katie's store went on strike, he encouraged union members to show up in solidarity.
Comic panel shows John saying: Just because some of these organizers are young and may not stay at a job doesn't mean they don't have rights on that job while they're there.
Comic panel shows John saying: They can start a unionization effort, and when they move on, they've still created something that's going to outlast them. And that's the labor movement. We don't necessarily get to sit under the shade of the tree we planted.
Comic panel shows John saying: Here at 191, we're fully in support of every worker's right to organize. We'll support wherever we're able to.
Comic panel shows Katie and reads: Like Garrett, Katie was fired, along with another co-organizer in her store. Katie says A lot of fired partners are continuing to organize in the movement, and I think it's because it's a big deal.
Comic panel shows a Starbucks store and a Katie quote reading: Starbucks is a huge corporation that has previously tried to bust unions, and a lot of us are so passionate about it that it makes sense to keep doing it, even though it's hard.
Comic panel shows a Starbucks storefront in a wooded area. Katie's quote reads: Workers in rural places need a voice.

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