Spilling the Beans About Starbucks' Union-Busting Tactics

by: ZP Heller

Tue May 19, 2009 at 18:30


Put down that grande non-fat caramel macchiato or whatever Starbucks concoction you're drinking.  Turns out the coffee giant has a nasty history of being anti-barista, anti-union, and thus anti-Employee Free Choice Act as well.

The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly found Starbucks guilty of illegally terminating, harassing, intimidating, and discriminating against employees attempting to unionize. Late last year, a judge ruled Starbucks had committed over a dozen violations of the National Labor Relations Act at a few New York stores.  Starbucks has settled five such labor disputes in the last few years in New York, Minnesota, and Michigan, spending millions on legal fees to avoid exposing their anti-worker ways.

To make matters worse, Starbucks has led the charge on a so-called Employee Free Choice Act "compromise," joining Costco and Whole Foods to form the Committee for Level Playing Field.  This Orwellian-sounding group has come up with a "third way" on Employee Free Choice, which would require 70 percent of workers to sign union authorization cards instead of the far more manageable 50 percent initially proposed by this legislation.

ZP Heller :: Spilling the Beans About Starbucks' Union-Busting Tactics
We've known for a while where Starbucks' billionaire CEO Howard Schultz stands on unions.  After all, it was Schultz who once said that if workers "had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn't need a union."  Yet Starbucks pretends to be pro-barista, claiming to offer workers decent wages and health insurance.  The reality is the company insures less than 42 percent of its 127,000 baristas in the U.S.  As Liza Featherstone recently reported, even Wal-Mart, a company notorious for its anti-labor practices, insures 47 percent of its employees.

Like Wal-Mart, Starbucks offers its workers low wages averaging $7.75 an hour, and Starbucks also refuses to guarantee workers set hours.  Instead, the company adheres to an Optimal Scheduling policy that requires baristas to make themselves available 70 percent of open store hours just to work full time in any given week.  This means low-wage earning baristas often don't have time to take a second job.  Moreover, it precludes tens of thousands of Starbucks employees from working the 240 hours per quarter needed to qualify for the company's health insurance.

Starbucks' ethical reputation is misleading, its "progressive" policies less substantive than the company's frothy beverages.  Sign the memo to Howard Schultz insisting he allow workers to unionize.


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The wobblies do the best job of challenging (0.00 / 0)
starbuck union busting tactics.

http://www.iww.org/

My blog  


Didn't know any of this (4.00 / 1)

 I'm an infrequent Starbucks customer, but now it's getting adjusted to "never".  

"We judge ourselves by our ideals; others by their actions. It is a great convenience." -- Howard Zinn

A Good Sign? (0.00 / 0)
I used to work for Starbucks (as a lowly barista) back in '99, during WTO. The limosine liberals running the place were dead-set against fair trade, et al. I thought it would be a smart move for the company to get on the side of the fair trade movement early on, for both moral and PR purposes. Instead, they had several stores vandalized, and took a beating in the center-left press for their business practices. Within a year, they ended up crossing the line to the fair trade side anyway.

So maybe that bodes well for EFCA? An organic soy latte is the only difference between the limo liberals and many CoC Republicans.


honestly the 70% isn;t a ad compromise (0.00 / 0)
if the other pieces stay in place. As someone who works for unions I know it is realy imossible to get a contract with the 50 percent anyway. In order for a union to be effective you really do need to have a united work force.

This doesn't surpise me (4.00 / 2)
Working in the stores at SBUX is no different than fast food (save for the grease).

I worked as a barista for about 2 years (while a student, then as a second job).

For what it is (a very crummy job), it's fine.

It always amazed me the perception people had of the barista job.  Customers, friends, family members...they all thought you made good money slinging espresso....they thought you had a great benefits and made a lot in tips.

Truth be told, in the late 1990's you made about 50 cents above minimum wage (here in Seattle) and averaged about $1.5 per hour in tips.  When they introduced the SBUX card....tips went down....when they eliminated the option to tip with a credit/debit card...in the name of efficiency....tips went down as well.

They introduced T-mobile wifi...and wanted you to sell it.  They introduced music...and wanted you to sell it.  They introduced warmed sandwiches...wanted you to prepare it, on top of your normal duties....and they wanted you to sell it.  Of course, when all these things were added to your job description, there wasn't a pay increase.

They had already phased out their free stock bonus when I worked there...instead I had the option of buying stock at a discounted rate, something like 5% below market value.  Stock purchase was capped at some percentage of my gross wages (something like 5-10% of my gross $250 per week pay for about ~30 hours of work).

In addition, if you qualified for AETNA insurance for working more than 20hrs per week the previous quarter, you paid a portion of that...something like $70 per month if I remember correctly.

I worked in an affluent area of Seattle.  Our store had the highest in total dollar sales for espresso machines.  My store manager had been with company for about ten years.  I remember at one point, she was afraid she was going to get fired (signals she had gotten from her manager) for not meeting the ~5-8% YOY espresso machine sales revenue increase.

Nevermind that maybe the reason was the neighborhood was already buying machines at its capacity (there was little to no outside of neighborhood traffic in this store as it was on a peninsula, with negligible through traffic).

/rant


I need to add... (0.00 / 0)
...my comments above are all from memory (~10 year old memories).  So the numbers certainly aren't accurate.

The general descriptions and relative amounts are roughly good though.


[ Parent ]
Employees and Customers (0.00 / 1)
I wonder why Starbucks also refuses to guarantee workers set hours. I just hope they will also take good care of their employees as much as they take care their fans and customers.

Outsourced Bookkeeping


And Subway, too... (0.00 / 0)
Like Wal-Mart, Starbucks offers its workers low wages averaging $7.75 an hour, and Starbucks also refuses to guarantee workers set hours.  Instead, the company adheres to an Optimal Scheduling policy that requires baristas to make themselves available 70 percent of open store hours just to work full time in any given week.  This means low-wage earning baristas often don't have time to take a second job.  Moreover, it precludes tens of thousands of Starbucks employees from working the 240 hours per quarter needed to qualify for the company's health insurance.

This can also be said, exactly, of Subway(TM) franchises...


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