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(en) US, NYC, Alt. Media, Starbucks Union-Busting Efforts; Organizers Arrested during A rally in 28 August

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 30 Aug 2004 06:56:43 +0200 (CEST)


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To protest Starbucks Coffee's negative reaction to recent union
organizing efforts ended with four arrests, including the detention
of two Starbucks employees who are members of the Industrial Workers
of the World (IWW) union branch 660 (IU 660). Chanting "Union busting
is disgusting," about 400 protesters gathered around 2:00 p.m. at a
midtown Starbucks located at 36th street and Madison Avenue, proceeded
to the Starbucks headquarters on the corner of the Empire State
Building, and returned to the 36th street store.
The midtown store has been the center of a union organizing
dispute between Starbucks and the IWW.

Protesters came from across the country for the rally, which is
one of many protest activities planned during the week of the
Republican National Convention. Included among the
demonstrators were many from the ranks of the IWW and other
unions.

One of the two Starbucks workers arrested was Daniel Gross, 25,
who has been a vocal organizer and strong supporter of the
Industrial Workers of the World union organizing drive. As
previously reported in The NewStandard, Grossí union
activism has led to stern warnings of possible termination from
Starbucks, which accused him of blocking the entrance to the
store while handing out pamphlets a few weeks ago. Moments
before his arrest, Gross lamented to The NewStandard, "They
are trying to fire me for completely law abiding activities."


ďWeíre going to continue to organize the old fashioned
way, directly and democratically, just like the old school unions
had to do when they did not have a chance for legal recognition.
You got huge powerful corporate lawyers against us and the
whole [appeals] process could take years. Itís better this
way.Ē
--Anthony Polanco, Starbucks worker / labor orgaizer


Michael Scwhartz, an eyewitness to the arrest, said, "I was
standing right next to Daniel on the sidewalk when they arrested
him, and I was doing the same thing he was -- trying to
communicate with the other half of the protesters they split us off
from, but [the police] went right after him and threw him down
to the ground in the intersection." Police had separated the
demonstrators into two groups, saying they had to clear a right of
way for pedestrians.

At the time of Grossís arrest, his co-worker Anthony
Polanco was giving an interview to the NewStandard. Polanco
said the IWW had changed its tactic to seek official recognition
after Starbucks appealed a National Labor Relations Board ruling
that was to allow his store to vote on union representation. After
the Bush-appointed Labor Board said that the union organizers
would have to wait to vote on their union until the end of the
appeals process, which could last up to three years, the
organizers decided to withdraw their request to vote on instituting
a union.

Polanco explained the unionís decision to not wait out the
appeals process: "Weíre going to continue to organize the old
fashioned way, directly and democratically, just like the old
school unions had to do when they did not have a chance for
legal recognition. You got huge powerful corporate lawyers
against us and the whole [appeals] process could take years.
Itís better this way."

Moments after making that comment, Polanco wondered out
loud, "Where is Dan?" and walked over toward the southwest
corner of 36th and Madison where the rally was being held and
saw his co-worker and friend in handcuffs in the middle of the
intersection. Police arrested Polanco as well when he verbally
confronted them about arresting his friend.

Ten minutes later, police arrested two more unidentified male
protesters as well, this time at the northwest corner of the store
for refusing a general order to clear the sidewalk.

Benjamin Ferguson, the branch secretary of the IWWís New
York City chapter, said: "The IWW is a radically different type of
union. We realize that most of laborís victories have been
won with on-the-job actions, not through the government."
Ferguson explained that that IU 660 plans to undertake a
number of on-the-job tactics to win demands, such as
coordinated work slow-downs, instead of waiting out the appeal
which IU 660 formally withdrew several weeks ago.

The IWW is a legendary union with a rich history of resistance
and landmark labor victories. Many labor experts credit the
unionís early militancy as leading to the eight-hour work
day.

If workers at the 36th street Starbucks are successful in their
organizing efforts, they will become the first unionized Starbucks
in the country. Though Fortune magazine rated the coffee giant
one of the 100 best companies to work for in 2002, Starbucks
pays many of its New York areas workers less than $8 an hour
and gives raises as low as ten cents. The company does provide
workers who put in twenty hours a week with medical, dental
and vision insurance, but workers say these benefits are not
enough to offset the low wages and repetitive stress injuries
caused by using the espresso machines.

While resisting workers' demands, Starbucks reported $4.2
billion in sales for the first half of 2004, a 28 percent increase
over the same period last year.



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