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Starbucks Charged with Terminating Two Employees for Union Activity

Massive Labor Board Complaint Implicates Top Managers - November 25, 2005.

New York, NY- The National Labor Relations Board has charged 15 Starbucks officials with an extensive array of anti-union acts including the discharge of two baristas for organizing activity. The multi-count complaint, detailing unlawful activity at three Starbucks stores, comes after an independent investigation of the world's largest coffee chain triggered by charges from the IWW Starbucks Workers Union.

The NLRB complaint alleges that Starbucks fired union member Sarah Bender to discourage employees from engaging in protected union activity. The complaint further alleges that the company surveilled, interrogated, and discriminated against union member Charles "Anthony" Polanco. Then Starbucks, contrary to past practice and policy, refused to allow Mr. Polanco to revoke his stress-induced resignation before it became effective.

"Yes, the 'happiest company on Earth' dismisses people for exercising their right to form a union," remarked Sarah Bender. "I'm now just looking forward to getting my job back to continue the organizing drive."

In one of Starbucks' more absurd violations detailed in the complaint, Julian Warner, the store manager at 9th St. and 2nd Ave. in Manhattan, issued a negative performance evaluation to Laura De Anda under the category of "Ethics and Integrity" explicitly because of her union membership. Another 9th and 2nd worker, Pete Montalbano, was surveilled and sent home for supporting the Union. In a sign of how much Starbucks wants to avoid an organized workforce, the company was so scared of workers wearing IWW pins that it implemented an unlawful no-pin policy and forced union workers to take off their pins.

"The sheer breadth of Starbucks' anti-union activities is remarkable," said Stuart Lichten, the Union's attorney from the labor law firm Schwartz Lichten and Bright. "The company has simply been breaking the law with impunity."

In upper management, the complaint names four district managers, one regional director, and even Starbucks Senior Vice President Martin Annesse. The Starbucks Workers Union has called on the company to fire all managers found to have violated the law. Trial on the charges is set for February.

"It's interesting that all of this lawlessness took place while Starbucks was acting under the close guidance of its chief 'union avoidance' lawyers, Daniel Nash and Gregory Knopp, of the corporate firm Akin Gump," said Daniel Gross, an IWW organizer and Starbucks barista. "To me, the NLRB complaint illustrates the ugliness of anti-union lawyering. I guess you can't expect too much from a firm with a partner who serves on Wal-Mart's board of directors. Starbucks needs to sever ties with Akin Gump now and put the money it saves into workers' pockets instead of its effort to break the workers' union."

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union continues to grow and fight for a better life on the job. Last Friday, workers at a third U.S. Starbucks store went union, demanding 30 guaranteed hours of work per week and an immediate cessation of the anti-union campaign.