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News :: Labor
Starbucks Workers Union Organizer Speaks in Boston
17 Nov 2010
Anja Witek, an organizer with the Starbucks Workers Union in St. Paul, Minnesota, gave a talk about her union experiences last night at Encuentro 5 in Chinatown. The SWU was formed in New York in 2004 in response to poor working conditions and lousy pay at the Starbucks chain of coffee shops, and has since spread to stores Nebraska, Minnesota, and many other locations across the world. The SWU is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Starbucks has a carefully nurtured public reputation for social responsibility, but Witek pointed out that those who work there know better. In the midwest, wages start at about a nickel above minimum wage, and don't advance much from there. Starbucks' vaunted health care package is only available to employees who work more than a certain number of hours a week, and the company sets hours arbitrarily. Workers never know from week to week whether they will have enough hours to qualify for health care, let alone to afford it. Starbucks actually provides health insurance to a smaller proportion of its employees than Walmart.

Witek also spoke about how the IWW's trademark solidarity unionism is helping workers. While the SWU has never been able to win official union recognition from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), direct action has proved effective in supporting individual workers and putting pressure on the company. An example is the campaign in support of Azmera Mebrahtu, who was falsely accused of theft and fired from a St. Paul Starbucks. Supporters started a petition drive, launched a call-in campaign to Starbucks offices, and held a picket that shut down Mebrahtu's former store for two hours. The union also found Mebrahtu another job and helped her to file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Other workers who have been fired specifically for union organizing have filed complaints with the NLRB. Starbucks has delayed and appealed these cases as much as they could, but since they have lost at every stage, it is expected that eventually the workers will be reinstated with back pay. Witek pointed out that Starbucks has stopped firing organizers in recent years.

The Jimmy Johns Workers Union is another IWW success story in the Twin Cities. While Witek is not directly involved in that union, she did have some interesting information. While to outside observers it appeared that the JJWU erupted out out of nowhere, they actually prepared for four years before going public. Their aim was to recruit enough workers to hold and win an election to make the JJWU an official NLRB-recognized union, without having to deal with management interference before they were ready. While the election effort came up one vote short of victory, Jimmy Johns' management was stampeded into numerous violations of federal labor law, including bribing employees to vote against the union. The JJWU is attempting to have the election nullified by the NLRB. In the meantime they are conducting pickets and direct action campaigns to raise awareness and pressure management.

After her talk Witek discussed Starbucks and the union with members of the audience. People asked questions about union organizing tactics and talked about their own experiences in the workplace and with unions.

Further information:

This work is in the public domain.
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fuck you peater you hack
02 Dec 2010
peter if a fucking pig
if you ads are being deleted ask for peater at the LUCY PARSONS CENTER
02 Dec 2010
he is a jerk always holding a laptop with IBM on it. you can personley tell him how you like his policing!