Saturday, June 12, 2010

Until the Final Victory: Celebrating Six Years of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is proud to celebrate the sixth anniversary of our campaign for fair wages, consistent scheduling, a healthier and safer workplace, and a voice on the job at the world's largest coffee chain. As we enter our sixth year of struggle, we leave behind us a year marked by the continued rapid deterioration of working conditions at Starbucks: the doubling of our health insurance costs, massive layoffs, reduced staffing, and the continued disregard of greedy company executives for the well-being of hard-working Baristas and their families– even as Starbucks achieves record profits of $760.3 million in the last 12 months. This represents a profit of roughly $5354 from each of Starbucks 142,000 workers. Rather than return the wealth of our labor to hard-working Baristas who are living in poverty, Starbucks executives issued the first-ever dividend to shareholders, further enriching the financial class that has driven our world to ruin in the worst economic crisis since 1929. However, even as conditions continue to worsen in corporate management's greed-fueled race to the bottom, our movement for justice at work continues to gather strength. We now take a moment to celebrate our victories as we prepare for the battles to come.

In the past year, we gained members and took action to win our demands and build power on the job on shopfloors across the world. The Starbucks Workers Union expanded to Canada as Baristas in Quebec City joined the IWW in response to Starbucks new Optimal Scheduling system, which forces students to choose between keeping their jobs and staying in school, and pressures working parents to choose between their children and their careers. In the United States, we have continued to gain ground in our fight to defend our right to organize, with Starbucks cornered into signing its sixth settlement agreement with the National Labor Relations Board pledging to end its anti-union misconduct. We gained valuable public support thanks to our new allies at Brave New Films, who launched a social media campaign to raise awareness of Starbucks' repeated and intentional violation for our right to organize. A YouTube video about the Starbucks Workers Union filmed by Brave New Films was viewed over 80,000 times, forcing a response from Starbucks. In New York, Starbucks was hit by yet another NLRB legal complaint, increasing pressure on company bosses to respect our right to association.

Despite continued illegal interference from management, we have forged ahead with organizing efforts, welcoming scores of new members to the campaign and taking numerous direct actions to win gains on the job. In St. Paul, MN, the Starbucks Workers Union sprang to the defense of wrongfully-fired Barista Azmera Mebrahtu as she was unjustly targeted by Partner & Asset Protection. In Fort Worth, TX, union Baristas took direct action to demand the right to call in sick when they were forced to work with H1N1 symptoms, as well as to highlight Starbucks' decision to line executives pockets by doubling our healthcare costs. In New York City, baristas called on Starbucks executives to end their hypocrisy and honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by offering holiday pay on MLK Day. We stood up for the right of all workers to a workplace free to sexual harassment by standing with barista Kati Moore in her battle with the company over their support for a supervisor who repeatedly coerced her into sex. Unfortunately, we found that tolerance of sexual harassment has its roots high in the corporate hierarchy at Starbucks. Our public stance in support of Kati Moore inspired high-level managers to expose the pattern of sexual harassment and abuse engaged in by Starbucks Regional Vice President Andrew Alfano.

Looking back, we are horrified by the intensifying cycle of exploitation and abuse that corporate management is unleashing on workers at Starbucks. But looking ahead, we are confident that our movement will continue to gain strength. Our struggle for an independent voice on the job will end in triumph for Starbucks workers.

Until the final victory!

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