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(en) US, Cambridge, Wobbly Union Gets Support - City Council sides with IWW in dispute with Starbucks

Date Thu, 19 Oct 2006 09:57:42 +0200

You may soon be able to get a shot of “anarcho-syndicalism” with your
mocha Frappuccino, if the Cambridge City Council has its way. In its
meeting last night, the council passed a resolution supporting the right
of Starbucks employees to organize under the aegis of the Industrial Workers
of the World (IWW), or "Wobblies," a union made famous in the early 20th
century for a brand of radical socialism known as “anarcho-syndicalism.” The
IWW advocates “aboliton of the wage system” on its website.
“Starbucks is an international corporation with many assets, and
millions and millions of dollars, [and] they should refrain from
interfering with the workers right to organize,” the resolution reads.

Labor organizing efforts began in 2004 with the founding of the
Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) in New York City. The group
sought a living wage and consistent work hours for Starbucks
employees. They also claimed that Starbucks facilities violated local
health codes.

Organizers claim that they have experienced systematic intimidation
from Starbucks management over the past four years. However, the
organizers also take credit for the wage increases that baristas across
the U.S. and Canada received this September.

Starbucks officials did not return a request for comment. But in a
statement on its website, Starbucks touts its “top tier” wages
and “extensive” health plan. “Starbucks does not take
action or retaliate against partners who might be interested or take
part in union activity,” says the statement, dated Dec. 2, 2005.

Although official Starbucks unions exist only in New York and
Chicago, John MacLean, a union organizer present at the council
meeting, said he hopes Boston will soon follow.

“We have people inside, undercover,” he said.
“We’re trying to build groups in stores, so a cluster of
workers can confront their manager with a list of demands.”

Charles Fostrom, a former barista in New York who claims he was
fired because of his union activism, also spoke at the meeting in
support of the resolution.

“Starbucks has said the union doesn’t exist, harassed and
intimidated baristas who try to organize, and refused to listen to our
demands,” he said.

Several customers at Starbucks’ branch in the Garage shopping
center on JFK Street said they supported the council’s gesture.

“I think Starbucks is oversaturating the market, and if they have
that much business, there won’t be a need for workers that want
more money,” said Matthew F. Cammarata, a senior at Boston
College, as he sipped one of the chain’s blended drinks.

Also during the public comment part of the meeting, Nobel
Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen spoke out in opposition to his
neighbor’s petition for a curb cut to expand a driveway.

“We are concerned about the adverse affects of this curb cut for
our trees,” Sen, who holds the Lamont University Professorship
at Harvard, told the council.

—Staff writer Virginia A. Fisher can be reached at
vafisher@fas.harvard.edu. —Staff writer Nicholas K. Tabor can be
reached at ntabor@fas.harvard.edu.

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