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(en) US, IWW*, Union victories at NYC Union Square Starbucks - Fire Your Boss

Date Sat, 04 Feb 2006 15:44:07 +0200


On Friday Nov. 18, Starbucks workers at Union Square publicly
declared their membership in the Starbucks Workers Union.
Throughout the weekend workers showed their strength by refusing
to take off union pins in the face of management attempting to
enforce a no-pin policy. Our key demands were for guaranteed hours,
a group meeting with management, and an end to anti-union discrimination.
On Friday Nov. 18, Starbucks workers at Union Square publicly
declared their membership in the Starbucks Workers Union.
Throughout the weekend workers showed their strength by refusing
to take off union pins in the face of management attempting to
enforce a no-pin policy. Our key demands were for guaranteed
hours, a group meeting with management, and an end to anti-union
discrimination.

District manager Kim Vetrano informed us three days after we went
public that we could not wear our pins; although pins have been
worn in the past, the policy was suddenly being enforced. Vetrano
also insisted there would be no group meeting. We could have
one-on-one meetings with managers, but not as a group.

In response to the denial of our demands and constant harassment
over our union membership, we formed a picket line on Friday Nov.
25. With over 50 IWW members and supporters picketing
throughout the day, we brought one of the busiest days of the year to
a standstill. Our presence had a severe economic effect on the store.
Managers were forced to give out free samples in order to get rid of
all the milk. Store manager Mike Quintero told me that we were
directly affecting his bonus.

In the past two months we have had several leaflets and many
confrontation on the floor. Management has attempted to break the
union, but a solid core of IWW members at Union Square have
shown that we are not afraid. We have shown that as a union the
company listens and our working lives improve.

On Dec. 15 Starbucks targeted one of our strongest Wobblies. Suley
Ayala was told to take off her pentagram necklace, a symbol of her
being Wicca. An assistant manager said that religious items can not
be worn at work. Meanwhile we were forced to wear Christmas hats
and listen to non-stop Christmas music.

Workers were sick and tired of the illegal anti-union activity and
religious discrimination. Three union members walked off the floor
and confronted our manager in the back room. This was to no avail
and managers threatened to send people home. Management did
change their reasoning, though. The problem was no longer that the
necklace was a pentagram, but rather that it was now too big.

In response workers took direct action. Union members wore their
own necklaces and refused to tuck them in or take them off. Still
Suley was the only one targeted, and was sent home for wearing her
pentagram for violation of Starbucks dress code. Meanwhile other
workers were violating the unenforceable dress code in numerous
ways without any repercussions.

We began leafleting. A flyer was passed out to customers telling
people about the injustice Suley was facing. Aside from the religious
discrimination, Suley was not being paid the correct wage. A mother
of four and a Starbucks worker for three years, she has received
some of the most unjust treatment from the company. When rehired
in the beginning of 2005 her wage was brought down from $8.54 to
starting pay of $8.25. According to Starbucks policy, if rehired within
a year’s time a worker should be rehired at their previous wage
rate. There was a clear mistake, and for the past year Suley’s
voice was not heard. Leaflets with a picture of Suley and her kids
were given to customers to let them know the situation behind the
counter. We were spreading the truth about Starbucks and they
wanted it to stop.

Our direct action in support of one another forced the company to
give Suley back pay for the past year and adjust her wage. A clear
victory for the union! In addition, Suley continues to wear her
pentagram without any reaction. At Union Square we have been able
to secure a minimum amount of hours for members, get better
equipment and management is finally addressing the rodent and
insect problem at the shop. As a union we have a voice at work.

Overall the IWW drive has forced Starbucks to improve working
conditions across NYC. Most recently we have seen a 25-cent across
the board raise for all NYC Starbucks workers. Since the union
campaign started 18 months ago there have been three separate
raises, which have increased starting salary from $7.75 to $8.75. In
addition, the union has pressured Starbucks to change its
employment practices and move towards an option of guaranteeing
hours for Starbucks workers.

http://www.iww.org/en/node/2006

By Tomer Malchi - Industrial Worker, February 2006
==================================
* [Ed. Note: IWW - Industrial Workers of the World is antiauthoritarian
anticapitalist direct action syndicate.]

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