Starbucks Woes Continue as IWW Initiates Legal Action
Reprinted From Wobbly City (www.wobblycity.org)
Starbucks barista Charles Fostrom wears his union pin
‘Rogue Corporation’ is Flouting the Law with Impunity
New York, NY – May 30, 2006 Still reeling from a defeat at the National Labor Relations Board in March, Starbucks was hit with a fresh legal charge from the IWW Starbucks Workers Union today. The Labor Board charge outlines continuing discrimination and retaliation against union baristas by the world’s largest coffee chain. The legal filing and supporting evidence establish that Starbucks has breached the settlement agreement reached with the government less than three months ago.
“If there was any doubt in the past, Starbucks now has made clear its anti-worker intentions,” said the union’s General Counsel, Stuart Lichten, of Schwartz, Lichten, and Bright. “The company is violating one bedrock labor rights principle after another.”
The Unfair Labor Practice charge contests final warnings before termination against three IWW Starbucks Workers Union members: Suley Ayala, Daniel Gross, and Tomer Malchi. Starbucks disciplined the three because of their continued participation in an organizing drive to win a living wage, secure hours, and respect on the job. Ironically, Mr. Gross’ first final warning before termination for union activity was rescinded by the recent government settlement of IWW charges against Starbucks. Less than two months later, Starbucks concocted another one against him.
Currently pending charges also contest the firing of IWW barista Joe Agins, Jr. from a Manhattan Starbucks for his organizing activity.
“It’s just disgraceful how this company considers itself above the law,” said Pete Montalbano, an IWW barista at Starbucks. “Starbucks is a rogue corporation – unconcerned with human rights when it gets in the way of profit.”
The wearing of union pins continues to be an area of contention between the IWW and Starbucks. While Starbucks agreed in the March settlement to acknowledge the long-standing right of workers to wear union pins, the company continues to discipline workers at Starbucks locations not directly at issue in the settlement who choose to wear union pins.
“My manager flipped out when my co-workers and I put on our IWW pins,” said Charles Fostrom, an IWW member and Starbucks barista. “I couldn’t believe how gripped he was with fear because we chose to express our support for the IWW with a modest-sized pin.”
After being informed by employees that he was breaking the law by demanding they take of their union pins, the store manager, Patrice Britton, contacted his superiors at Starbucks who instructed him to continue to prohibit the pins.
Despite record profits and a claim to social responsibility, Starbucks and Chairman Howard Schultz have yet to accept the fundamental right of baristas to free association in the form a union.
In the midst of the fierce anti-union campaign, the Wobbly baristas have made important gains in wages, security of hours, and individual grievances on the job. The IWW Starbucks Workers Union operates on a solidarity union model where workers control their own organization and take direct action against the company without mediation from the state or paid union representatives.