Starbucks Baristas Get Steamed
Some of the baristas at the 8th and Rosedale Starbucks announced today that some of their employees have unionized, making them the first unionized Starbucks in Texas. Here is their press release:
Fort Worth, TX- Baristas and community supporters at the 8th and Rosedale Starbucks shut down the store’s drive-thru this morning and delivered a list of demands including affordable health care options and sick days for those displaying H1N1 or other cold and flu symptoms. Starbucks doubled the cost of the company health insurance plan in September, leaving many workers unable to afford treatment because of sky-high deductibles and premiums.
“We’ve had enough. Baristas should not be forced to expose customers to H1N1 or other contagions and stay sick longer, just in order to be able to make the money they need to support their families and pay astronomical health care costs. We’re making $7.30/hr., that’s a nickel above minimum wage,” said IWW Barista Michelle Cahill.
The protesting baristas are members of the Starbucks Workers Union, which is an international campaign of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) labor union. The store action makes the 8th and Rosedale location the first Starbucks in Texas to have a public union presence.
Baristas decided to move toward unionization after many workers were forced to continue working while displaying intense H1N1 and other flu symptoms, enhancing the likelihood of spreading the flu virus. The baristas are demanding that those who display H1N1 or other cold and flu symptoms be excused from work with pay to avoid exposing customers to Swine Flu.
Casey Keeling, another union barista at the store, said, “Watching our coworkers be forced to serve customers while they were sick with H1N1 was the last straw. Something needs to change- in our workplace and in this country. We have decided to form a union to fight for affordable health insurance, paid sick days, a fair wage, and secure work hours. And they could at least give us a first aid kit for the store.”
While portraying itself as a ‘socially-responsible’ employer, all of Starbucks’ retail hourly workers in the U.S. are part-time employees with no guaranteed number of work hours per week. According to Starbucks figures released to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 40.9% of its employees (including managers) are covered by the company health care package, a lower percentage than the oft-criticized Wal-Mart, which insures 47% of its workforce.
Since the launch of the IWW campaign at Starbucks on May 17, 2004, the company has been cited multiple times for illegal union-busting by the National Labor Relations Board. The company settled numerous complaints against it and a judge’s guilty verdict on more than 30 additional rights’ violations was recently upheld on appeal by the Board in D.C. Starbucks’ large anti-union operation is headed by CEO Howard Schultz and operated in conjunction with the Akin Gump law firm and the Edelman public relations firm.
The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is a grassroots organization of over 300 current and former employees at the world’s largest coffee chain united for secure work hours and a living wage. The union has members throughout the United States and Canada fighting for systemic change at the company and remedying individual grievances with management.
Union baristas, bussers, and shift supervisors have fought successfully toward improved scheduling and staffing levels, increased wages, and workplace safety. Workers who join the union have immediate access to co-workers and members of the community who will struggle with them for a better life on the job.