The IWW Starbucks Workers Union: Five Years of Rebuilding the Labor Movement from Below
Sunday, March 21 2010 2:00
Iowa City Public Library Room A
On May 17, 2004, baristas at the 36th & Madison Starbucks announced their affiliation with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), one of the oldest unions in the United States. This set the stage for a global grassroots struggle between the baristas, united under the red flags of the legendary IWW, and the most ubiquitous symbol of corporate globalization in the world: Starbucks. Despite a vicious union-busting counteroffensive initiated by CEO Howard Schultz and coordinated by the law firm Akin Gump, five years later, the workers movement continues to gain momentum as workers around the world join the campaign.
In this talk, rank-and-file Starbucks baristas will discuss the truth about life behind the counter in the corporate chains, and explain how their innovative Solidarity Unionism organizing model has enabled the IWW to establish a foothold in an industry with the lowest union density in the United States.
Background: Working at Starbucks
While portraying itself as a ‘socially-responsible’ employer, Starbucks pays baristas a poverty wage usually hovering around the legal state minimum. In addition, all retail hourly workers at Starbucks in the United States 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 seven complaints against it and was found guilty by a judge in New York on more than 30 additional rights’ violations. Starbucks’ large anti-union operation is operated in conjunction with the Akin Gump law firm and the Edelman public relations firm.
The Starbucks Workers Union is an organization of employees at the world’s largest coffee chain united for a living wage, secure work hours, and respect on the job. We are part of the Industrial Workers of the World, a union for all workers. Working together, we have won improvements in wages and working conditions and remedied individual grievances with management. The Starbucks Workers Union is driven by solidarity unionism, an innovative and powerful 21st century approach to improve our life at work.
For more information, visit our website at http://www.starbucksunion.org.
In the Media
New York Times: “Starbucks Loses Round in Battle Over Union” http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/24/nyregion/24starbucks.html
Fort Worth Weekly: “A Cup of Union”
City Pages: “Baristas Union Drive Comes at a Key Time” http://www.citypages.com/2008-07-30/news/starbucks-baristas-union-drive-comes-at-key-time/
In These Times: “Union Made Lattes”