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Commentary :: Labor
In Depth: IWW Starbucks Union Rally, IWW Arrests in NYC, 8/28
30 Aug 2004
Industrial Workers of the World member and Starbucks Union organizer Daniel Gross was arrested today after addressing an IWW rally outside of Starbucks' 36th and Madison store and Starbucks' regional headquarters on Park Avenue.
Industrial Workers of the World member and Starbucks Union organizer Daniel Gross was arrested today after addressing an IWW rally outside of Starbucks' 36th and Madison store and Starbucks' regional headquarters on Park Avenue. Another IWW organizer who works with Daniel at the 36th and Madison store, was also arrested. These were the only two arrests at the rally and happened within minutes of each other between 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm EST.

Nearly an hour before the march and rally began, at 1:00 pm EST, a plainclothes NYPD detective was present in the store. He briefly spoke with the manager and other workers at the store, asking questions about the upcoming rally. That same detective spoke outside with two uniformed NYPD officers who joined him at the store. Within half an hour, the detective left the store and the two uniformed cops began talking.

"What do the protesters usually do?" the first asked.

"I dunno," the other said, "Bang on the windows?"

"Hey, what's the color for today?" (Either having to do with internal NYPD alert levels or with undercover officers).

"Yellow," the second said.

At 1:30 pm EST, 20-30 undercover/plainclothes police officers on scooters rode up Madison Avenue and turned the wrong way down 36th, parking halfway down the block. The scooters are the NYPD's latest budgetary excuse: each cost $2800.00 which the city insisted were needed for, ahem, homeland security operations during the Republican Convention.

At 2:00 pm EST, demonstrators gathered on the sidewalk in front of and to the side of the Starbucks location, quickly swelling to dozens within 15 minutes. Clearly underestimating the turn out, police called for backup in the form of riot police transported by van.

As IWW members and supporters chanted, "What's disgusting? Union busting! What's outrageous? Starbucks' wages!" on-lookers expressed sympathy and many more continued to join the rally. At this point, Daniel Gross, who works at the 36th and Madison Starbucks, addressed the crowd and stressed the need to continue this campaign at this and other Starbucks' stores across the country, for better pay and raises, guaranteed hours with full time status, regular schedules and an end to understaffing.

By this point the group had swelled to between 100 and 150 Wobblies and some very vocal supporters with red and black flags. At least a dozen legal observers from the NY Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild were also present. A brief verbal interchange happened between a senior NYPD officer at the scene and Wobblies, where the officer told the crowd to move away from the street (many mainstream media reporters took to the street, though) and a few participants simply said, "Okay, we're marching down the sidewalk away from here anyway."

The march headed east on 36th Street toward Park Avenue, flanked by undercover cops driving the wrong way down 36th on their scooters and uniformed police in riot gear on foot. After a brief rally outside of Starbucks' ragional headquarters, the march returned to the 36th and Madison store, highly spirited but with no incidents along the way. At that point, police attempted to cordon the rally, still on the sidewalk, into two sections. The first section remained on the 36th Street side of Starbucks, the other smaller section on the Madison Avenue side. Police then proceeded to arrest Daniel Gross as he attempted to peacefully walk across the street away from the rally, on the crosswalk and at the "walk" signal. The other arrest, of a fellow worker and Starbucks organizer, happened just after that when the organizer put his foot off of the curb for a moment.

A stand-off continued from 3:30 pm to 4:00 pm outside the store until police announced their intentions to arrest everyone at the rally if they persisted in exercising their freedom to assemble peacefully on the sidewalk. Still, the crowd dispersed of its own accord because, as one protestor put it, "Hey, we still have a week to go, you know? See ya on Tuesday! (A31)"

There seems to be little coincidence that the NYPD did Starbucks bidding by arresting two of the most active organizers with the IWW's unionizing campaign. Both organizers are very active and high profile. Daniel Gross recently received a warning of his impending termination for allegedly blocking the entrance to the 36th and Madison store at a previous rally, a claim that is disputed by a video tape of the previous rally.

But having already hired a union-busting law firm to represent Starbucks' against the IWW (Akin-Gump...yes, that is the real name), having already secured an indefinite suspension of a union vote through its corporate puppet friends at the Bush-appointed federal National Labor Relations Board (see, Starbucks Coffee has revealed once again that it has no respect for its workers or their rights or well-being, no respect for civil liberties (identifying individuals for arrest before hand with detectives), and absolutely no idea that the Industrial Workers of the World never go down without a fight.

Some may say that the days of free speech fights and union organizing struggles by Wobblies and others, where they stood up, fought like hell for the rights of their brother and sister workers and held hard to the motto "an injury to one is an injury to all," are long past. I would say to them, no. Those days are long overdue.

Solidarity Forever!

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