Monday, October 6, 2008

Battered Starbucks Hit With Yet Another Federal Labor Complaint

Labor Board in Michigan Files Complaint Against Starbucks Over Illegal Union-Busting

A Further Complaint is Pending on Starbucks Lawyers Questioning of Baristas

Grand Rapids, MI- The Starbucks Coffee Co. barely had time to wipe the dust off after settling a Labor Board case against it in Minnesota when it got hit with another complaint here. With stark similarities to the Minnesota case and prior cases in New York, the National Labor Relations Board contends that Starbucks engaged in Unfair Labor Practices when it unlawfully terminated outspoken union member and barista, Cole Dorsey, because of his protected activities. Starbucks also has a week to decide if they will settle the complaint issued against them that they further engaged in Unfair Labor Practices through their lawyer's interrogation of baristas. Starbucks is set to stand trial on November 20, 2008.

"Starbucks tried to quietly get rid of me because as a union member I speak out for the respect baristas deserve," said Cole Dorsey, the fired barista and member of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. "It's time for Starbucks to start addressing the issues, like poverty wages to baristas and coffee farmers, instead of spending tons of money on anti-union lawyers and social responsibility advertising gimmicks."

Concurrently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the government's health safety watchdog, will soon announce their decision of a recently concluded trial to determine whether a barista was unlawfully terminated for reporting a health violation.

In the OSHA trial, Starbucks management and local baristas testified regarding a barista who was fired a week after filing a health complaint over a leaky roof. Prior to the trial, lawyers from Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt, and Howlett interrogated multiple baristas in an attempt to find out what their answers would be at the OSHA trial. The prominent Grand Rapids corporate law firm continues to represent Starbucks after they signed a settlement agreement with the NLRB in 2006 saying they would end barista interrogations.

“Starbucks’ aggressive anti-union attorneys may have crossed the line into illegality,” said Pete Montalbano, a New York-based organizer with the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. “Given Starbucks’ track record of flaunting labor law, this doesn’t come as a surprise.”

Starbucks’ legal woes are not unique to Michigan. The NLRB recently concluded an investigation of Starbucks in Minnesota after a union barista was wrongfully terminated at their Mall of America location. The barista was re-instated after union pressure and Starbucks has since settled those charges. In 2006, Starbucks settled a large case against it in New York involving the right to communicate about the union and terminations of union supporters. Finally, an administrative law judge in New York will soon announce a decision after a lengthy trial the NLRB prosecuted against Starbucks there involving over 30 counts of illegal anti-union activity.

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is a grassroots organization of over 200 current and former 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. The SWU has been especially active in New York City, Chicago, the Twin Cities, and Grand Rapids.

Union baristas, bussers, and shift supervisors have fought successfully toward 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.