Dallas activists revive 1934 Teamsters tactic with ‘flying pickets’ at Starbucks stores
Flying picketers with their stealth protest signs rally outside a Dallas-area Starbucks on May Day. | Photo by Stu Becker

May Day Worker’s Correspondence from Dallas, Texas:

On May Day 2023, activists in Dallas celebrated by helping to organize “flying pickets” at different Starbucks stores across the metro area. The group included members of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, the Young Active Labor Leaders, and the Communist Party USA’s Dallas-Fort Worth Club. We pioneered an old but new labor organizing tactic that, to our knowledge, has never been done before in history in the North Texas area.

Picketers received plenty of support from passing motorists. | Photo by Stu Becker

We leafletted the workers and customers inside Starbucks quietly and then moved to the sidewalk outside to hold our stealthy signs made from file folders with slogans on them: “Raise Wages,” “Union Strong,” “Union busting is disgusting,” “Solidarity Forever,” and more.

The signs are cleverly made because they can be folded and put under your arm, so no one can tell that they are a sign. Then they can be opened up to display their messages while picketing.

We picketed and chanted for about ten minutes in front of the Starbucks store. Then, the next Starbucks location was posted for participants in a Telegram message group. This directed labor activists to go to the next Starbucks store and repeat.

At each location, Gene Lantz, President of the Dallas AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and leader of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, got on Facebook Live to tell viewers about the next location.

Some people who were not able to start at the first Starbucks store were able to catch up by meeting us at the next one.

The Starbucks locations usually had about three employees each working inside and seemed to appreciate the expressions of solidarity. Lantz’s red AFL-CIO t-shirt with the word “Union” across the chest garnered several thumbs-up.

We handed the workers and customers in each store a folded leaflet reading: “Hide this! Read it in private. Please join the movement to raise wages. Everyone needs at least a 5% raise just to stay up with this year’s inflation. Last year, we needed at least 9%.”

It then laid out how workers could go about getting those raises:

“Organizing is the essential way to get a raise. The labor movement wants to help bring up your wages and help you win dignity on the job. Check us out and let’s work together.” Contact info for the Dallas AFL-CIO and the Young Active Labor Leaders was on the back.

Gene Lantz, President of the Dallas AFL-CIO Central Labor Council and leader of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, introduced the Dallas activists to the ‘flying picket’ tactic. | Photo by Stu Becker

At one location, a journalist stopped and asked us who we were and for details about the cause. We demonstrated near busy streets, and people drove by and honked to show that they supported us. I saw one woman in a car at a stoplight read our sign and mouthed the words “Raise Wages.” She smiled, said, “I support that!” and honked.

Lantz introduced the idea of flying pickets to Dallas activists after reading about how workers used the tactics in Minneapolis in 1934 in the book Teamster Power, by Farrell Dobbs. The strategy is to flyer and picket at several workplaces in a short period of time. The route is to be kept secret. Activists only get information about the next location right before it is time to move on.

This keeps employers scrambling and unsure where the next protest might appear.

We chose to go to Starbucks locations this time because Starbucks workers have been organizing unions throughout the country. We plan on continuing this tactic regularly, at fast-food restaurants and grocery stores.

We had fun and a great time celebrating May Day by organizing workers and this was a great experience for activists to learn how to work together and how to organize themselves and other workers.

Young Active Labor Leaders

Dallas Central Labor Council


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Stu Becker
Stu Becker

Stu Becker is an activist and organizer in Dallas, Texas. He is a high school social studies teacher, and a member and organizer in the local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers.