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Pittsburgh Rises-Up in Global Days of Action Against Starbucks
by Santa's Little Helper Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006 at 1:38 AM

Solidarity is more beautiful than anything I have ever seen. More beautiful than the most intricate bridges. More beautiful than the most luminous skylines, hearing it said in unison, "Organize, don't fool around, Pittsburgh is a union town." -- FW Laney Trautman

Pittsburgh Rises-Up ...
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PITTSBURGH, PA — Local members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), joined by Friends of Labor supporters from across the city, participated in the IWW Starbucks Union’s “Global Days of Action” in a picket held here on November 24, 2006. For an hour on a sunny Friday afternoon, over twenty workers supporting the Starbucks Workers Union carried picket signs and loudly chanted in front of the Squirrel Hill Starbucks at the corner of Forbes and Shady Avenue. This was part of a broader movement in many cities around the world to protest Starbucks’ anti-union practices and the wrongful termination of five union workers.

As the post-lunch crowd milled about, union activists entered the store in an attempt to talk with employees and customers, and formed a line extending from the registers back to the entrance. The pro-union customers were faced with so many beverage options that it took a while to decide what they wanted. Others dug through their pockets and realized that while they had enough for a tip, they would have to put the price of their small but expensive beverage on a credit card.

Store managers demanded that no leafleting or union discussions take place inside the store. A union member in line to purchase a drink was asked to leave the store immediately after he mentioned the picket to another customer.

“While I was being forced out the door for simply mentioning the union to another paying customer,” said IWW member Kevin Farkas, “I asked the manager if my right to free speech stopped because I was inside Starbucks. His response was, ‘No it doesn’t, but you’ll still have to leave now. You can’t talk to the customers about that stuff.’” Farkas went on to say, “This is the kind of anti-free speech, union-busting nonsense that Starbucks workers face everyday. Starbucks says that it doesn’t interfere with unionizing, but today proves otherwise. Imagine, trying to tell paying customers what they can and can not talk about to each other. It’s shameful behavior and bad business for a company that boasts of its so-called progressive image.”

In all the excitement, people’s appetites grew, especially after seeing their fellow union member tossed from the store, and so many supporters got back in line to eye-up the pastries. But what turned out to be a very limited feast did not end there. At mid-afternoon union activists took to the public sidewalk in front of the store and began their picket. Management came outside to present customers with free samples to entice them past the protestors. Union members and supporters found these samples helped them warm-up on the picket line.

Motorists honked and waved their support, taking flyers from the picketers. Several people, including many customers coming from Starbucks, signed up to be a “Friend of Labor,” the union’s way of getting customers to pledge support for the Starbucks Workers Union and boycott. “It’s amazing how many Starbucks customers don’t know what it’s like to work at Starbucks,” said Ken Miller, an IWW member and former Starbucks worker. “Once we explain the hardships of employees, people are sympathetic and supportive of unionization. I’ve signed up many people as Friend of Labor supporters. That’s a good sign for workers. If the company won’t pay attention to their own employees, we can always count on the customers.”

Picket organizers noted that employees and managers at the Squirrel Hill Starbucks certainly paid attention to the protesters. Several baristas (Starbucks term for their retail sector employees) eventually came out of the store to see what was going on. It was a chance for activists to talk openly about the union with baristas but managers kept a watchful eye on their workers. Meanwhile, Starbucks managers were seen frantically making phone calls, conferring with each other, and even contacting the local police. Union sources familiar with the local Starbucks structure noted the presence of high-level management at the store—something unusual for a Friday afternoon. Management also handed out Starbucks’ “official statement” on the union, which was read out loud and ridiculed by the protestors in an impromptu street theatre presentation.

“Current and former Starbucks workers are coming forward to ask how they can get involved,” said IWW member E. W. Wolfson. “They realize that instead of just quitting, they should fight to make their jobs better, and that will benefit everyone in the industry.”

Friday’s picket action was motivated in part by the recent firings of pro-union Starbucks workers in New York City. Between December 2005 and November 2006, Starbucks fired Joseph Agins, Jr., Charles Fostrom, Evan Winterscheidt, Daniel Gross, and Isis Saenz, on pretexts ranging from insubordination to undermining employee morale. The National Labor Relations Board is investigating these firings and is not expected to have a ruling until sometime next year. However, in March 2006 the NLRB did reach a settlement with Starbucks directing the company to respond to a number of IWW allegations of unfair labor practices.

The March 2006 NLRB settlement reinstated two workers active with the union movement and forced Starbucks to pay roughly $2,000 in back pay to three employees and change discriminatory policies, including the workers’ right to wear union buttons (which Starbucks had denied them) and to distribute union materials in the workplace. Starbucks also promised not to provide employees with benefits, including after-hours store cleaning services, free pizza, free gym passes, and free baseball tickets, in order to encourage employees to withdraw support for the union. A March 2006 Wall Street Journal article by Kris Maher and Janet Adamy states that a Starbucks spokeswoman “wouldn't say specifically whether managers at the company had engaged in the behaviors detailed in the settlement but said ‘there's been no admission of guilt or liability on our part’ and that ‘we believe we've acted fairly.’ She says Starbucks respects the free choice of its workers but believes that its work environment makes unions unnecessary at the company.”

Lisa Stolarski, who works at Jane Street Housekeeping and is an organizer with IWW Industrial Union 680 in Pittsburgh, was a participant in the Black Friday protest. "The corporate world is watching Starbucks right now. If Starbucks gets away with illegally firing workers for organizing activity, then this behavior could set a precedent for chain corporations worldwide. It is essential that every worker and every unionist stand up for the Starbucks 5, because in defending the barista's right to organize we defend the foundation of unionism."

Starbucks may downplay the union as a localized movement, but the global days of action prove otherwise. And messages of solidarity are coming from far and wide. The C.E.K. union in Guinea, Africa declared its support for the union in September. In Paris, members of the French National Confederation of Workers (CNT-F) protested the company’s repeated violations of workers’ rights. The Comite de Solidarite de Madagascar, along with labor unions and groups in Austria, Canada, England, Germany, South Korea, New Zealand, and across the US have also condemned Starbucks’ union-busting. In Massachusetts, the Cambridge City Council has passed a resolution supporting the right of Starbucks workers to organize with the IWW. The United Auto Workers Local 2320 in Brooklyn and Local 2334 in Detroit, SEIU Local 707 in California, AFT Local 3220 in Madison, Wisconsin, Amalgamated Lithographers Local 1 (GCC-IBT) in New York City, and the National Lawyers Guild are also boycotting Starbucks until the fired workers are reinstated.

The Pittsburgh Starbucks Workers Union, along with its Friends of Labor members, is planning a series of protests against Starbucks’ anti-union, anti-worker practices. To learn how you can be involved and support local Starbucks workers, contact the Pittsburgh IWW at

Getting in shape for the General Strike
by Santa's Little Helper Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006 at 1:38 AM

Getting in shape for...
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Reaching out to the youth with the cold, hard facts about $tarbuck$
by Santa's Little Helper Sunday, Nov. 26, 2006 at 1:38 AM

Reaching out to the ...
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A Real Education!
by Activist Monday, Nov. 27, 2006 at 6:45 PM

It's great that these youngsters are interested in how grass-roots democracy operates. Where else do we learn about the power of the people? Not in school; that's where we learn about the power of the rich, white, capitalist guy. THANK YOU THANK YOU, Wobs for reaching out to these young people!

by C. Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006 at 12:43 PM

I am of the opinion that the greatest thing about this action is that the organizers or whoever decided to go into the store and be paying customers. I think paying and causing alittle trouble confused and troubled the managers in a way that a simple picket or a brick through glass wouldn't. I think it teased the hypocrisy with humour and for that I say: BRAVO!

That's thinkin' with imagination.

paying customers
by Bobby Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 at 1:45 AM

whoever decided to go into the store and be paying customers
and just raise hell for the workers. this is a great idea
it goes quite a ways to setting every one on the right track.
the real power lies in the actions of the people we just have to act out enough

paying customers
by Ryan Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 at 6:40 AM

i didn't go to this action. i was planning on it, but i didn't make it because i had to work. regardless, i'm not going to hate on their action. but, seriously, what is the upside of patronizing starbuck's? protesting or not? the workers that are getting fucked are not helped by spending money at starbucks. the money spent is going towards israeli terrorism and un-fair-trade coffee. what is so awesome about patronizing a fucked up place? if people are going to work there, sure they should be unionized. people need money, people need security if they are going to work. but does that mean they should be excited when a bunch of people come in to order things that aren't going to make them any more money than the flat rate they probably make per hour? should they be happy about the repercussions of each purchase? i could be wrong, but i doubt that (m)any of the workers at starbucks seriously care if they have any customers at all. flat rate pay = flat rate pay (unless customers stop coming, which, with starbucks, is not going to happen). starbucks is fucked up. protesting for workers' rights is surely understandable. what is the necessity of purchasing anything from a fucked up corporation in order to benefit workers that don't benefit from purchases?

Paying customers
by A. Wob Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 at 11:37 AM

The Starbucks Workers Union has called for a boycott. That means don't spend your money there -- the idea being to put some economic pressure on Starbucks.

The point of the action was:
1) to have an opportunity to speak with workers at the store;
2) to gum-up the works; thereby
3) ultimately costing Starbucks more money, as many customers who would be ordering more and larger drinks were turned-off by the long lines and chaos, which was reinforced by;
4) picketing

In other words, Starbucks made *less* money as a result of the action. Comprende?

Why ask Why?
by C. Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006 at 12:29 PM

You, of course, didn't have to be a paying customer--because starbucks is fucked. You could waltz in their adorned with placards and leaflets and tried to 'talk' to the workers. In which case the managers know exactly what to do--call the police, kick you out (you are trespassing, or you can add your own charge here), The police would've come blah blah and so on in the grand tradition of "Solidarity" actions.

I am in complete accord with A. Wob, though. The action gummed (two m's? one?) up the works and put the manager in a situation where, no matter the outcome, Starbucks looks like the fool.

What, are they going to kick out paying customers in front of other paying customers?

Are they going to call the police (HELP--There's a line of customers in my store, help me get 'em out!)?

Because of the top-down nature of Starbucks, the managers were paralized between their primary job (put money into the register), and what their training videos told them to do (Call Corporate for an Official Position, contact police). This is why I think the organizers made a wise, clever, and very very funny choice in doing the customer bit.

Now true, economic pressure and such is a great long term strategy. However in this case, giving a billion dollar monster a couple of bucks afforded the organizers a neat paradox they otherwise would not have had.

The means here justified the ends.

More Photos from Squirrel Hill Sbux Picket
by Santa's Little Helper (photos by hope) Saturday, Dec. 02, 2006 at 12:00 AM

More Photos from Squ...
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look who we found loitering at Starbucks!

by SLH Saturday, Dec. 02, 2006 at 12:05 AM

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by SLH Saturday, Dec. 02, 2006 at 12:07 AM

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scary people
by soy latte Tuesday, Dec. 05, 2006 at 12:12 AM

You freaks sure don't look like the type of vanguard an average starbucks employee would want to have representing them.

strabucks employee leave us alone!
by buck Tuesday, Dec. 05, 2006 at 5:49 AM

strabucks employee  ...
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strabucks employee

leave us alone!
we don't want your filthey protesters lurking around our
shops causing problems. who do you think cleans up after your messes "WE the employees do"
just stop causing us problems and go away!

No Scissorbills!
by Union-Proud Wednesday, Dec. 06, 2006 at 5:42 PM

No Scissorbills!...
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Don't be afraid of your boss!
by Stand Up For Yourselves Wednesday, Dec. 06, 2006 at 5:55 PM

Don't be afraid of y...
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to buck
by worker Wednesday, Dec. 06, 2006 at 7:13 PM

Buck. you are rediculous. I'm sure youre part of management. Actual starbucks WORKERS called for these types of protests.

LEAVE US ALONE! -Actual starbucks WORKERS
by Worker Thursday, Dec. 07, 2006 at 7:15 AM

Stop causing problems. who do you think cleans up after your messes "WE the employees do"

just stop causing us problems and go away!

having a union will only make us loose!
by starbuckster Thursday, Dec. 07, 2006 at 7:20 AM

with the employment deal we have to get a union would mean a big loss for all us workers. we would be supporting some collection of fat union bosses.
at our expense

Hey, "buck"
by Former Starbucks Consumer Thursday, Dec. 07, 2006 at 10:21 AM

You are repeating yourself, or "Worker" just happens to write the same way, with the same grammar:

LEAVE US ALONE! -Actual starbucks WORKERS
by Worker Thursday, Dec. 07, 2006 at 7:15 AM

Stop causing problems. who do you think cleans up after your messes "WE the employees do"

grammar; it's our major issue!
by Former Starbucks Consumer Friday, Dec. 08, 2006 at 7:38 AM

yes the employees want some ainal retentive such as your self
looking after our welfare and benifits when the only issue you can adderss here is the use of grammer in one of the posts.
go down to SB and get a triple expresso and wake up to reality

The IWW is your union
by Fellow Worker Friday, Dec. 08, 2006 at 3:12 PM

Anyone who knows anything about unions knows that the IWW is one of the most democratic, worker-run unions with no, absolutely no, union fat-cats. The workers decide how the union is run, from the shop floor up.

Don't be fooled by misinformation, ignorance, and the boss' spin about the IWW. It's not some "outside" union that will come in and tell you what to do and what to bargain for. You, fellow workers, tell the union what to do through your a democratic process. And its standing in solidarity with one another that gives the Wobblies their power. The more you stand united with your co-workers the more of a union you have.

If you think that the IWW is what the bosses say it is, then show us the money. For 101 years the IWW has been a union by and for the workers. Prove us wrong.

IWW - Local #????
by soy latte Friday, Dec. 08, 2006 at 6:17 PM

does the IWW actually represent a block of people from one single employer here in Pittsburgh? Not much leverage with a couple of grad students, a few people from the food co-op and a few under-employed dirty hippies and punk rockers.

from the pgh city paper about the IWW:
They are not an official union recognized by the NLRB -- the National Labor Relations Board.

wrong again
by Covington Friday, Dec. 08, 2006 at 7:04 PM

soy latte wrote:

>from the pgh city paper about the IWW:
>They are not an official union recognized by the NLRB -- >the National Labor Relations Board.

Obvously untrue, as a little research would show. But one doesn't have to go through the NLRB to get results, either.

were there starbucks employees participating?
by soy latte Saturday, Dec. 09, 2006 at 5:59 PM

Were there any Starbucks employees participating? When I went past, there weren't any. I would know because I am a regular at the Forbes Ave Starbucks. It seemed like a bunch of dirty hippies that live off of their parents' stock market profits when I went in for coffee. It is nice of you all to try to help the employees, but dumping samples on the ground for them to clean up isn't very respectful, even if it did put a big dent in capitalism.

by participant Saturday, Dec. 09, 2006 at 6:51 PM

If you were there, you would have noted that the most hippie-looking person was actually the ACLU observer. You would have also noted that no mess was left outside for Starbucks workers to clean-up. We've all got regular jobs, but came out to show solidarity with our fellow workers in NYC. I guess you find it hard to understand because they didn't teach it to you in prep school.

Who's YOUR enemy, dude?
by Think About It Monday, Dec. 11, 2006 at 5:36 PM

Well, you'd think some of the anger toward these union dudes could be directed at the real dudes we should be angry at--the stingy employers--and then we'd all be better off. I imagine that these ant-union dudes probably all think of themselves as "middle class" and upwardly mobile. Probably white, too. That's right...rugged consumer individualism and good 'ol corporate gumption--that's what these union hippies need. Stop speaking out. Shut up and get jobs. Be a patriotic conservative and God Bless us and damn our enemies--like those union hippies that make a mockary of all that we like about the world: Starbucks, Wal-Mart, pop music, credit cards, our white-ness, and the Iraq war. Damn it if we'll let the union hippies start protesting our Good War. Damn the unions. Damn the IWW!

You're my enemy, dude.
by C. Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2006 at 11:14 AM

Whoa. George Bush became a IWW organizer!

You're either with us or with them.

This is what makes me wonder, that it really doesn't matter the political stripe of the radical; both sides can't tolerate dissent/disscussion/COMPROMISE of any form.

Really...the right thinks its unpatriotic and such, the left just pins you as pro-corporation, pro-whateverism because you <gasp> disagree. It all reminds me of an old MAD magazine cartoon.

Of course, the "I'm more radical-ier than-thou-so-that-automatically-defeats-anything-you-can-say" crowd will howl.

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