A Union Shop on Every Block
As baristas seek to organize, the feds cite Starbucks.
by Philip Dawdy
In a first for Starbucks, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged the company with violations of federal law on Nov. 18 in response to complaints filed by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which has waged a yearlong campaign to unionize three coffee shops in New York. In the filing, the NLRB asserted that the 10,500-store Seattle-based chain violated the National Labor Relations Act by engaging in unfair labor practices, specifically citing instances of employees being fired for union activity and Starbucks managers conducting surveillance of and questioning employees about union activities, among other claims.
Daniel Gross, an IWW organizer and Starbucks barista in New York, says the union wants to organize workers so they can get a guaranteed 30 hours of work a week to make ends meet in pricey Manhattan. "Starbucks has been breaking the law nonstop," he says, referring to what he characterizes as union-busting activity by the company. Gross says company managers monitored employees through a camera at one Manhattan location. The IWW campaign is the first attempt to unionize the latte behemoth's employees in the U.S. In Vancouver, B.C., 10 Starbucks stores are unionized. Company sales for fiscal 2005 amounted to $6.4 billion.