Union to Share Plan to Improve Customer Service at Starbucks Annual Meeting
Submitted on Wed, 03/19/2008 - 3:37pm
Seattle, WA- As shareholders arrive at the Starbucks Annual Meeting today, members of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union and their supporters will greet them with leaflets highlighting the economic hardships faced by workers at the company and offering the workers' perspective on how to fix the recent plunge in its stock price.
"Maintaining a long-term, well-paid workforce is the key to lasting success at Starbucks," said Lucas Carter, a member of the IWW in Seattle. "If workers don't get enough work hours every week and they are struggling to pay the bills, how can management expect them to serve coffee with a smile?"
The union argues that the decline in recent years of the value of Starbucks stock, and of the brand in general, stems from its inability to maintain a highly trained workforce through equitable financial compensation and proper working conditions. For example, to save on labor costs, Starbucks degraded all if its Barista jobs to part-time, low-wage positions. All non-salaried café workers are mandatory part-time employees, meaning that none receive any guaranteed number of work hours per week. Many Baristas at the company also receive a poverty wage, starting at little above the minimum wage in some markets.
Reliable access to health care is also a problem that many employees at Starbucks wrestle with. Workers must maintain a quarterly average of 20+ hours per week to be able to qualify to purchase the company's health care package. According to the company's own figures, Starbucks insures less than 41% of its total workforce including managers, meaning the numbers for Baristas and Shift Supervisors is far lower – by contrast Wal-Mart insures approximately 47%. Starbucks also shares Wal-Mart's animosity towards labor unions.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Starbucks is an anti-union employer," said David Ruan, a New York City native and employee at a Starbucks store in Manhattan's East Village. "After we started organizing at my store, high level company officials would always be 'visiting' to check up on the workers. My old manager would talk to my coworkers in one-on-one meetings and tell them not to join the union. Any time we posted union material on the employee bulletin board, they would tear it down - they even fired my best friend Joe!"
Mr. Ruan is referring to one of the terminations currently being examined by a Labor Board judge after a lengthy trail. The Board has alleged Starbucks to have committed over 30 critical federal labor law violations at several of its stores in NYC. These violations include discriminatory policy enforcement, interrogation and threats of suspension to union supporters, and the unlawful termination of IWW members at Starbucks.
The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is a grassroots organization of 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 fighting for systemic change at the company and remedying individual grievances with management.
IWW baristas have fought successfully for 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.