Skip to main content

IWW Members Mobilize Outreach to Starbucks Baristas on MLK Day Nationwide

On Monday, January 17, 2011, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, while baristas at the Astor Place Starbucks in Manhattan were declaring their membership in the IWW, members of the IWW and supporters descended on Starbucks throughout the United States to wish baristas a happy Martin Luther King day. As part of these greetings, IWW organizers informed baristas of the recent victory won by IWW Starbucks baristas in securing time-and-one-half holiday premium for working on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The victory came after a spirited three-year initiative of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) which made public the company's second-class treatment of Dr. King's birthday and called on the coffee giant to pay the same premium that it pays workers on six other federal holidays. After Starbucks refused to change its policy, union workers and their supporters launched a determined campaign of grassroots actions in Starbucks stores and communities all across the country in support of equal treatment for MLK Day. (For more information, see related article: Starbucks Baristas Win Equal Treatment for MLK Day After Three Year Union Fight.

IWW members visited Starbucks and talked with baristas in hundreds of cities throughout the US.

All in all, the effort was a huge success. Workers were positive and appreciative, and it shows that solidarity unionism and international solidarity is still a very effective strategy.

The Industrial Workers of the World union effort at Starbucks is the first time a labor organization in the United States has succeeded in building a base of organized baristas at the company. With over 300 worker-organizers across the country and growing, the SWU has consistently chalked up victories at Starbucks including across-the-board raises, more secure work hours, and respectful treatment from previously abusive managers whose conduct improved due to union pressure campaigns. The SWU has repeatedly prevailed against Starbucks in the legal arena across multiple cities including in a lengthy New York City trial over pervasive illegal union-busting, the first time the company had to square off against baristas in open court regarding unfair labor practices.

The IWW Starbucks campaign is just beginning. If you are a barista at Starbucks, or if you are a worker at any unorganized workplace, including especially a major chain or fastfood franchise, we want to hear from you. Contact us by visiting any of the links listed at the end of this article.