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Faced With IWW Pressure, Starbucks Releases Sub-Par Health Care Number

Coffee Giant Has Lower Percentage of Insured Workers Than Wal-Mart

New York, NY- The myth of a socially responsible Starbucks is steadily unraveling with an admission by the coffe chain that less than half of its employees are covered by company health care. The revelation is all the more remarkable since the company has long promoted itself as a leader in employee health care while the actual percentage of Starbucks workers covered is less than that of Wal-Mart, a corporation notorious for the burden it places on taxpayers via uninsured workers.

"The Starbucks socially responsible image is all smoke and mirrors. Customers always ask, 'you get company health care, right?'" said Pete Montalbano, an IWW barista. "Starbucks employees, many of whom are uninsured or on Medicaid, knew the answer to that all along. Only now, so does everyone else."

After multiple public challenges from the IWW Starbucks Workers Union for this very statistic, the company admitted to the Wall Street Journal that only 42% of its employees are covered by company health care. Wal-Mart covers 47% of employees according to the Journal report. Starbucks' 42% figure includes management officials whose participation in the health care plan is greater because premiums, co-pays, and deductibles are more affordable with their higher earnings. Therefore, the percentage of non-managerial workers covered by company health care at Starbucks is undoubtedly even lower. The union had argued- correctly it turns out - that health care coverage would be significantly lower than one would expect from a company that claims an extraordinary commitment to employee health benefits.

"I'm a mother of four and my Starbucks wage puts me well below the poverty line," said Suley Ayala, an IWW member at the Union Square Starbucks in New York City. "My kids and I are on Medicaid- there's no way I could afford Starbucks health care without a raise and a guaranteed 30 hours of work per week. Starbucks would never budge in the past but as a union member my voice cannot be ignored."

The Journal article draws another unfavorable comparison between Starbucks and Wal-Mart. While 70% of Wal-Mart's employees are full-time (at least in Wal-Mart's atrophied version of full-time), only 20% of Starbucks employees are full-time. Once again, the 20% includes management officials. In fact, every single retail hourly worker at Starbucks in the United States is a part-time employee with no guarantee of any number of work hours per week.

Details of Starbucks' woes at the National Labor Relations Board are also cited in the report. The company is set to stand trial on a wide range of charges including the termination of IWW member and former Starbucks barista Sarah Bender for exercising her right to join a union. Indeed, Starbucks' union-busting approach- high-priced anti-union consultants, propaganda, threats, and retaliation- is very similar to Wal-Mart's.

"The fact that some light has been shed on Starbucks' employment practices is a testament to the power of all the grassroots activists around the world that make up the Starbucks Workers Union community," said Daniel Gross, a barista and IWW organizer. "Never before has such a fundamentally anti-worker company done so well in creating a socially responsible image. With all the facts pointing to Starbucks as a poverty wage employer teeming with uninsured workers, the importance of a strong organization of baristas could not be more clear."

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is a group of baristas, bussers, and shift supervisors organizing for a guaranteed 30 hours of work per week and an end to the unlawful anti-union campaign. Eschewing the deeply flawed NLRB certification process, the union has won wage increases, better working hours, and safety improvements through direct pressure on the company.