Sunday, 5 August 2007

Starbucks Briefing

No Sweat Scotland and the IWW are organising a protest in Glasgow
on Saturday 18th August - Look out for details here

International unions
Starbucks No Sweat briefing notes
No Sweat briefing on Starbucks

August 2007

Starbucks – global corporation

Starbucks is the world's largest coffee chain. Founded in the early 1970s in the United States (US), last year its annual global turnover was $7.8bn (£3.9bn). Starbucks announced in October 2006 its long-term expansion target of 40,000 outlets around the world, more than triple the existing number.

Starbucks opened its first store in London in September 1998, on the King's Road, Chelsea. It opened its 500th outlet in the UK in July 2006. The company announced in January this year that it aimed to open a new store in London every fortnight for the next decade.

Exploiting workers

Over 100,000 people worldwide - known as “partners” – work for Starbucks. More than 5,000 people work for Starbucks in the UK.

Starbucks workers in the US earn as little $6-$8 per hour depending on the location. Every single barista in the US is part-time and not guaranteed any work hours per week. For example, a Starbucks worker can get 35 hours of work one week, 22 hours the week after, and 10 hours the following week. In Britain baristas get a little over the minimum wage – in other words poverty pay.

Meanwhile Starbucks CEO Jim Donald awarded himself a $2.5 million (£1.25m) bonus in 2004. Its highest paid UK director got £452,000 in 2005.

Starbucks baristas work at a relentless pace to meet extraordinary customer demands. The Starbucks work environment is also full of ergonomic hazards, resulting in repetitive strain injuries for many workers.

Workers report that they are often bullied by managers. Schedules are often made without consideration for workers’ needs. In the US, Starbucks requires workers to call around the city to get a shift covered when ill or in bereavement.

Starbucks anti-union activity

In 2004, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) began an organising campaign in Starbucks in the US, forming the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU). In 2006 the union took the company to the US National Labor Relations Board for anti-union activity and victimising union members. Yet within months, it sacked another union organiser Daniel Gross.

The SWU alleges that the coffee giant: unlawfully fired two IWW baristas in retaliation for union activity; illegally disciplined workers for discussing the union during and after work; threatened, issued negative performance reviews, and suspended workers for supporting the union.

Exploiting coffee growers

According to the Guardian newspaper, coffee growers receive little more than $1.10 (50p) for a pound of coffee, which is then sold for $160 (£80).

Oxfam launched a campaign against Starbucks in October 2006 after it effectively blocked Ethiopia's attempts to trademark its coffee beans in the United States. Around 90,000 people wrote to chief executive Jim Donald to complain. Starbucks put out a video on the website YouTube, which said it would be illegal for the Ethiopians to trademark their beans Sidamo and Harar in the US since they are geographical regions which cannot be trademarked there.

Starbucks and the Ethiopian farmers signed a marketing, licensing and distribution deal in May 2007. It quit its campaign against the African country's farmers being allowed to trademark in the US the names of their highest quality beans

Union fightback

By April 2007, the SWU had a public organised presence at nine Starbucks stores spanning four states and Starbucks baristas in several other states.

In New York City, SWU members have won important victories:

* Four city-wide wage increases from $7.75 to $8.75 per hour and $9.63 for many workers after six months on the job
* More consistent scheduling of hours
* The right to wear union pins (badges)
* Significantly reducing unsafe rat and insect infestation in stores
* Reduced repetitive strain injuries

Similar gains have been won by SWU members in Chicago.

In November 2005, Starbucks workers in Auckland, New Zealand staged a one-hour protest about low wages for staff working in the fast-food sector. This was the first ever strike by Starbucks workers. The strike was part of the SuperSizeMyPay.Com campaign. It included more than 30 Starbucks workers from 10 different Auckland stores, joined by about 150 supporters and staff from KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonalds.

Starbucks are workers getting organised in France and Germany. The IWW is helping Starbucks workers set up their own union in Britain too. No Sweat supports the campaign and wants activists to help the unionising drive wherever there is a Starbucks or similar coffee shop.


IWW Starbucks Workers Union

Baristas United

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