Global actions target Starbucks union-busters

Sun, 01/07/2007 - 4:26pm -- SWU

Actions in some fifty cities around the world, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand and American cities including New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and San Francisco protested Starbucks’ anti-union practices and the wrongful firing of five union activists over the Thanksgiving weekend Nov. 24.

The global day of action kicked off Nov. 22, when five New York City IWW baristas illegally fired for their union activities entered Starbucks regional headquarters to demand their jobs back and that Starbucks cease its scorched earth union-busting policy.

As SWU members and community supporters picketed outside, the fired baristas addressed their demands to Starbucks “Partner and Asset Protection Investigator” Marc Stella inside the company’s posh office across from the Empire State Building.

Stella is the company’s internal Pinkerton who conducted the sham investigation against FW Daniel Gross and is likely complicit in all the baristas’ terminations. Regional Director Jim McDermott was conveniently out of the office enjoying the Thanksgiving weekend and his fat cat salary as baristas work extra hard meeting holiday demand on a poverty wage.

The roster of fired unionists now includes: Joseph Agins, fired from Starbucks at 2nd Ave. and 9th, Dec. 12, 2005; Charles Fostrom, fired from 57th and Lexington, July 11; Evan Winterscheidt, fired from 14th and 6th Ave., July 18; Daniel Gross, fired from 36th and Madison, August 5; Isis Saenz, fired from 57th and Lexington, Nov. 1.

In Germany solidarity actions took place in Essen and Munich on Nov. 25. In Essen, Starbucks Workers Union supporters leafleted in front of the shop near the Central Railway Station, and sent faxes to the German headquarters of Starbucks, also in Essen, warning that they would return if the baristas’ demands should were not fulfilled.

In Munich supporters distributed leaflets in front of the shops in Leopold and Feilitsch streets. Most participants were members of the German anarcho-syndicalist Freie ArbeiterInnen Union (Free Workers Union) or the German IWW organizing committee.

In Pittsburgh, 25 IWW members and other union supporters carried picket signs and chanted in front of the Squirrel Hill Starbucks at the corner of Forbes and Shady Ave. As the post-lunch crowd milled about, union activists entered the store in an attempt to talk with employees and customers, but managers blocked leafleting or union discussions inside the store and ejected customers who were discussing the action.

Unionists then took to the sidewalk in front of the store and began their picket. Motorists honked and waved their support and passers-by stopped to talk with union members handing out flyers. “It’s amazing how many Starbucks customers don’t know what it’s like to work at Starbucks,” said Ken

Miller, an IWW member and ex-Starbucks worker. “Once we explain the hardships of employees, people are sympathetic and supportive of unionization.”

Several baristas (Starbucks’ term for employees) came out of the store to see what was going on, talking about the union under managers’ watchful eye.

Between December 2005 and November 2006, Starbucks fired five New York City IWW members on pretexts ranging from insubordination to undermining employee morale. The National Labor Relations Board is investigating these firings and is not expected to issue a ruling until sometime next year.

In March 2006 the NLRB did reach a settlement with Starbucks on earlier union complaints. That settlement reinstated two union workers, and forced Starbucks to pay back pay to three employees and change discriminatory policies infringing upon workers’ right to wear union buttons and distribute union materials in the workplace. Starbucks also promised not to provide employees with benefits, including after-hours store cleaning services, free pizza, free gym passes and free baseball tickets in order to encourage employees to withdraw support for the union.

Messages of solidarity are coming from far and wide. The C.E.K. union in Guinea declared its support for the union in September. In Paris, members of the French National Confederation of Workers protested the company’s repeated violations of workers’ rights. The Comite de Solidarite de Madagascar, along with labor groups in Austria, Canada, England, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, and across the U.S. have also condemned Starbucks’ union-busting.