Judge Finds Starbucks Guilty of Union-Busting

Some good news: an NLRB victory for Starbucks workers, organizing with the Industrial Workers of the World, aka the Wobblies. The baristas at the Starbucks on Winter St. seemed unaware when a couple of us stopped in for eggnog lattes, but I am considering heading back to post a copy of this article on their “community” bulletin board. This was also reported in today’s New York Times, here.

The IWW Scores Big Victory Over Global Coffee Chain

New York, NY (Dec. 23, 2008)—Following a lengthy trial here last year, a National Labor Relations Board judge has found Starbucks guilty of extensive violations of federal labor law in its bid to counter the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. In an 88-page decision, Judge Mindy E. Landow found, among other things, that Starbucks maintained multiple policies which interfered with workers’ right to communicate about the union and about working conditions; terminated three workers in retaliation for union activity; and repeatedly discriminated against union supporters. The decision comes despite a 2006 New York settlement in which Starbucks pledged to stop illegal anti-union activities and mirrors federal government action against the company for its conduct toward baristas in Minnesota and Michigan.

“The judge’s decision coupled with previous government findings expose Starbucks for what it is—a union-busting corporation that will go to staggering lengths to interfere with the right to freedom of association,” said Daniel Gross, a barista and member of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union found to have been unlawfully terminated by the coffee giant. “In these trying economic times of mass layoffs and slashed work hours, it’s more important than ever that Starbucks and every corporation is confronted with a social movement that insists on the right to an independent voice on the job.”

The Board decision is the latest blow against a company that has experienced a stunning fall from grace. From a precipitous decrease in customer demand to its increasingly tattered socially responsible image, the myriad of challenges facing Starbucks has resulted in the company losing over half its value from just a year ago. The decision also represents a significant victory for the IWW Starbucks Workers Union which continues to grow across the country with baristas taking creative and determined actions to improve the security of work hours and win respect on the job. Starbucks faces another Labor Board trial next month in Grand Rapids, Michigan over illegal union-busting.

“For the first time, a judge has confirmed the existence of a nationally coordinated anti-union operation at Starbucks,” said Stuart Lichten, the attorney for the IWW Starbucks Workers Union in the case. “This decision conclusively establishes Starbucks’ animosity toward labor organizing.”

The union is confident that Judge Landow’s copiously documented and well-reasoned 88-page decision will be upheld by the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. should Starbucks appeal. The victory is sure to be gratifying for the union’s international supporters who conducted spirited global days of action in defense of Isis Saenz, Joe Agins, Jr., and Daniel Gross after their terminations which the Board has now found to be unlawful.

The National Labor Relations Board attorneys on the case were Burt Pearlstone and Audrey Eveillard. The union’s attorney Stuart Lichten is a partner at Schwartz, Lichten & Bright, a prominent New York City labor law firm. Starbucks was represented by union-avoidance lawyers Daniel Nash, Stacey Eisenstein, and Nicole Morgan at corporate firm Akin Gump.

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is an organization of almost 300 current and former Starbucks employees united for a living wage, secure work hours, and respect on the job. Founded in 2004, the union uses direct action, litigation, and advocacy to both make systemic improvements at Starbucks and take on the company over unfair treatment of individual baristas.

The Industrial Workers of the World (iww.org) is a rank and file labor union dedicated to democracy in the workplace and global solidarity.

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