Saturday, September 27, 2008

For several years now the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), an international syndicalist organization, have been doing what no other union has taken on- organizing workers at the Starbucks coffee shop chain. It's difficult organizing, but the IWW has already had many successes. For the history and current events in the struggle see the Starbucks Union site. One of the recent places where the IWW is organizing is in the Twin Cities area of the USA. Last month management at the Mall of America got both the City of Bloomington police and the Metro Transit authorities to do their dirty work for them. This is the story, and the IWW response.
Riot Cops Illegally Detain Wobblies at Mall of America:
by Starbucks Workers Union
Video: 50 Starbucks Workers Union Supporters Sealed into Train by Police

Video Release:
Minneapolis, MN- The Starbucks Workers Union of the Industrial Workers of the World announced today that it is filing Unfair Labor Practice charges against the Mall of America, Metro Transit, and the City of Bloomington after fifty of its supporters were sealed onto a train by police at the Mall of the America station and denied the right to escort a union barista to his first day back on the job after an anti-union termination. The union delegation was headed to the Mall of the America Starbucks location on August 31st after a rally to celebrate the reinstatement of barista Erik Forman which had been won through a combination of direct action, a legal filing, and media advocacy.
"It was a surreal and deeply distressing experience to encounter heavily armed riot cops blocking the doors of the train car and trampling on our right to assembly. They even refused to let a diabetic child leave the train to get medical attention," said Jake Bell, a barista and member of the Starbucks Workers Union. "They told us the 'Mall doesn't want you here,' locked the doors, and rerouted the train back to Minneapolis."
In the Mall, it became clear that a massive police buildup had been coordinated with the FBI and Starbucks management to pre-empt a supposed 'protest' in front of the Mall of America Starbucks. The Industrial Workers of the World had been explicit with police that no protest was planned. The Union has released video evidence documenting the unlawful interference with constitutional rights and international law, available here:
Forman had been illegally fired on July 10 for union activity, sparking an outpouring of anger and disgust from baristas, customers and the general public. The delegation escorting him back to his first day back on the job received confirmation from transit police at both the Lake Street and Bloomington rail stations that they should be allowed to enter the Mall provided that they did not carry signs or disrupt business.
This is not the first time the IWW Starbucks Workers Union has experienced rights violations during a political convention. At the Republican National Convention in 2004, two IWW baristas were unlawfully arrested during a rally in front of the Starbucks location in New York City where they worked. The charges were successfully resolved and a lawsuit stemming from the event is currently pending against various governmental defendants.
Background on the IWW Starbucks Workers Union
Baristas at the Mall of America location announced their affiliation with the IWW on July 21 in a walkout protesting Starbucks store closures. The Union baristas demand a fair severance package for affected workers, as well as severance pay based on seniority and the right to transfer. The Union's core demands also include a living wage, cost of living increases, and guaranteed hours.
While portraying itself as a 'socially-responsible' employer, Starbucks pays baristas a poverty wage of $7.60/hr. In addition, all retail hourly workers at Starbucks in the United States are part-time employees with no guaranteed number of work hours per week. According to Starbucks figures released to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 40.9% of its employees (including managers) are covered by the company health care package, a lower percentage than the oft-criticized Wal-Mart, which insures 47% of its workforce.
Since the launch of the IWW campaign at Starbucks on May 17, 2004, the company has been cited multiple times for illegal union-busting by the National Labor Relations Board. The company settled two complaints against it and is awaiting a decision by a judge in New York on more than 30 additional rights' violations. Starbucks' large anti-union operation is operated in conjunction with the Akin Gump law firm and the Edelman public relations firm..
The IWW Starbucks Workers Union is a grassroots organization of over 200 current and former employees at the world's largest coffee chain united for secure work hours and a living wage. The union has members throughout the United States fighting for systemic change at the company and remedying individual grievances with management. The SWU has been especially active in New York City, Chicago, Grand Rapids, and Minneapolis.

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