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Announcement :: Labor : Organizing : Politics
Wobbly Union Gets Support -Cambridge City Council sides with Industrial Workers of the World in dispute with Starbucks
20 Oct 2006
VIRGINIA A. FISHER and NICHOLAS K. TABOR, Harvard Crimson Staff Writers.

Disclaimer - Contrary to the authors' remarks, the IWW is not an "anarcho-syndicalist" organization. It is in fact, a revolutionary industrial union.
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 (at) —Staff writer Nicholas K. Tabor can be reached at ntabor (at)

City Council Policy Order Resolution
O-3 IN CITY COUNCIL October 16, 2006


WHEREAS: The City of Cambridge is committed to the right of all workers to have dignity in their lives, safe conditions at work, a living wage, and health benefits, and supports responsible employers who follow the law and treat their workers fairly; and

WHEREAS: National attention has been increasing on the efforts of Starbucks workers to organize into a union in order to negotiate fair wages, benefits, and scheduling issues without harassment from the employer or their representatives; and

WHEREAS: The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a union with a long history in Massachusetts, going back to the 1912 Lawrence textile strike, have been asked by the workers at Starbucks to be their labor representative; and

WHEREAS: The Industrial Workers of the World have agreed to work on behalf of the workers at Starbucks, the employer should allow for fair and just representation of the employees choice; and

WHEREAS: This struggle has started in New York City, and the National Labor Relations Board has ordered the workers who were unlawfully fired by Starbucks, exercising their rights, to seek representation by a union, and to be reinstated and made whole in everyway, including all damages, and ordered Starbucks to cease and desist from interfering with workers rights to organize; and

WHEREAS: Starbucks has continued to interfere with its workers rights, by firing four more workers in New York City for union activity; and

WHEREAS: Starbucks is an international corporation with many assets, and millions and millions of dollars, they should refrain from interfering with the workers right to organize; now therefore be it

RESOLVED: That the City Council go on record supporting the cause of the Starbuck’s workers; and be it further

RESOLVED: That the City Clerk be and hereby is requested to forward a suitably engrossed copy of this resolution to Starbucks Corporation.

This work is in the public domain
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23 Oct 2006
The IWW most definitely is an anarcho-syndicalist union of revolutionary industrial workers. Look at the history of the IWW and the beliefs that it was founded on. It's an entirely different form of unionism.
23 Oct 2006
Don't you get it? The IWW is whatever whoever happens to be speaking for them wants to call themselves at the given moment. Anything else would be authoritarian.