Starbucks Workers Union
The Starbucks Workers Union is a union formed by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to organize retail employees of Starbucks. The union has members at Starbucks locations in New York City; Chicago; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Cincinnati, Ohio; Quebec City; Bloomington, Minnesota, and Omaha, Nebraska.
On May 17, 2004, Starbucks's workers at the 36th and Madison store in midtown Manhattan organized the first Starbucks barista union in the United States. The union drive had its origins in barista's complaints that a starting wage of $7.75 an hour was not a living wage in New York City and that Starbucks refused to guarantee regularity of hours per week. The union has also joined with Global Exchange in calling on Starbucks to purchase at least 5% of the store's coffee from fair trade certified sources. The 12 workers submitted union cards to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a certification election. Prior to the election, Starbucks filed an appeal with the NLRB, asking that the election be extended to several stores, not the single store that filed for an election. The NLRB agreed to review the appeal and impound the ballots at the Madison Avenue store. The IWW subsequently withdrew the election petition because the appeal could cause a several-year delay in the validation of the election. Starbucks claims the union withdrew due to a lack of interest by Starbucks workers. The IWW usually does not get involved in the NLRB election process, but rather focuses on winning incremental demands on the shop-floor through the practice of "Solidarity Unionism." On this basis, the organizing drive continues at Starbucks locations across the world.
|This section relies on references to primary sources. (November 2009)|
On April 9, 2009, the IWW Starbucks Workers Union announced the formation of the first union of Starbucks workers in Latin America, Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile S.A. Starbucks baristas and shift supervisors in Santiago, Chile, have organized for respect on the job, a dependable work schedule, and a living wage, among other issues. Currently, Starbucks Coffee has about 30 stores in Chile, with plans to open six more stores in the near future.
“Starbucks has been in Chile for six years now, and since they opened, management’s communication with the workers has been getting worse and worse,” said organizer Andrés Giordano. “We have seen some reprisals against those who have voiced constructive criticism to management about such issues as dismissals and a lack of promotions for baristas,” he added. Baristas and shift supervisors only make $2 to $3 per hour, while they continue to sell over-priced specialty drinks for twice that amount. Meanwhile, the cost of living has increased by 26 percent in the last five years, according to Giordano.
"Around the world, Starbucks jobs must work for hard-working baristas, not just senior executives," said Chrissy Cogswell, a Starbucks employee in Chicago and a member of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. "The Chilean baristas have created a voice at work to make sure their contribution to the company is respected."
“As a union, we are making reasonable demands, such as a wage increase, decent working conditions, and for Starbucks to adhere to their values of Corporate Social Responsibility.’ The company isn't following these principals, which are the base of our daily work and behavior in the stores,” said Giordano. He said the union workers in Chile are “glad and proud” to announce their union, and they look forward to more international solidarity with the IWW. “We believe our purpose will be stronger, as we strive together,” he added.
The Chilean Union has denounced several Union busting actions -or Anti-Union practices- undertaken by Starbucks in their country.
The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against Starbucks in which it alleged the company prohibited workers from distributing union leaflets or wearing union buttons while they were at work. The company settled the charge with the National Labor Relations Board in March 2006. The company did not admit it had broken the law, but did agree to post notices explaining workers' rights under the National Labor Relations Act at three of its stores. In addition, it was forced to allow two employees to return to work and compensate three workers for lost wages in an amount less than $2,000. The union claims that four of its members have been fired for union activities, a charge the company denies.
On January 14, 2005, charges stemming from a march during the 2004 Republican National Convention were dropped against union co-founder Daniel Gross. Witnesses allege Starbucks's managers coordinated with the NYPD to single out Daniel Gross and another union activist from a crowd of 200 protesters.
In June and August 2006, several organizers were fired by Starbucks, including union co-founder Daniel Gross who Starbucks claims made a threatening remark to a district manager at a union rally. Gross denies the charge. The NLRB is currently reviewing the circumstances of the dismissals.
On May 17, 2007 union baristas in Grand Rapids, Michigan announced they also were filing Unfair Labor Practice charges with the NLRB based on Starbucks reaction to the union drive there.
On July 11, 2008 union baristas in Minneapolis, Minnesota filed an unfair labor practice over the firing of IWW barista Erik Forman. After an escalating campaign of direct action, including a petition and a work stoppage at the Mall of America location, Starbucks offered Forman his job back and later settled with the NLRB.
On Friday, June 16, 2006 the Starbucks employees working at the 135 E. 57th Street store in Manhattan made public their IWW membership and presented a list of demands to management to improve working conditions. This was the 5th Starbucks store in New York to establish a public organizing committee and make collective demands from the company.
Baristas at Chicago’s Logan Square Starbucks store announced on August 29, 2006 their membership in the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, becoming the first U.S. workers outside of New York City to declare union membership. A set of demands was given to the management team including a living wage, guaranteed work hours, reinstatement of IWW baristas allegedly fired for organizing activity, and respect for an independent voice on the job through union membership.
In August, 2006, A group of union members filed a complaint with the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging that three of Starbucks's Manhattan stores violate basic health standards. OSHA inspected the locations and found two serious hazards, as well as a number of less serious hazards. The group is demanding the company increase staffing levels and provide elbow-length gloves.
In July 2008, baristas at the Mall of America I Starbucks announced their membership in the union, demanding seniority-based severance pay and the right to transfer for workers at closing stores.
The organizing campaign is ongoing in Minneapolis and cities across the United States, and is growing in Europe and around the world.
Global Day of Action
On July 5, 2008, the Industrial Workers of the World and the International Workers Association joined forces in a Global Day of Action to protest Starbucks' anti-union practices. They accused Starbucks of illegally firing Cole Dorsey, a Grand Rapids, MI barista, as well as a CNT barista in Sevilla, Spain in early 2008. Actions took place in over 20 countries around the world.
A Global Week of Action was held on July 5, 2011, in support of El Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile, who were protesting the working conditions in Santiago, Chile.
The Starbucks Workers Union has a student activism campaign to increase the wages and working conditions of farmers who sell coffee to Starbucks, increase purchasing transparency of Starbucks coffee beans, and raise awareness about the social consequences of drinking Starbucks coffee.
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