Louis R Godena louisgodena at ids.net
Fri Mar 10 13:14:09 MST 2006

>From Gangbox, Greg Butler's construction union news service:

March 09, 2006 12:28PM EST 


The defeat of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union - and the union`s curious reluctance to face reality 

By a union activist 

Industrial Workers of the World IU # 660's Starbucks Workers Union made a noble effort to unionize 3 Starbucks stores in Downtown Manhattan. Despite their best intentions, the union activists involved basically bit off more than they could chew. After all, it is hard for 4 people to face off a multibillion dollar global retail giant, with a high turnover workforce and an elaborate system of on the job surveillance. So, the IWW was faced with coming up with an exit strategy. They actually did a good job of that. Sadly, the union has declined to face reality, and admit that a defeat is a defeat. 

 Yesterday, the Industrial Workers of the World`s Starbucks Workers Union dropped their National Labor Relations Board Unfair Labor Practices case against Starbucks Coffee. 

As is typical in the modern labor movement, the deal was worked out by a bunch of lawyers in a back room 

Now, many of the worst evils in the world have been cooked up in closed rooms filled with attorneys. 

Be that as it may, the IWW did get a relatively good outcome out of this case, considering the fact that the underlying union campaign had collapsed. 

They got 2 of their ``salts`` (union activists planted on a job to organize it from within) restored to their jobs It's not clear if they will actually go back to work as baristas - apparently the union has already helped them get other jobs. 

The two thousand bucks that Starbucks paid out to make this case go away is related to the discharges of those two pro union workers. The back pay is so low because, as per the requirements of the Taft Hartley Act, they took other jobs while waiting for the case to get before the Board. 

Other than that, there's minor stuff, like the right to wear pro-union pins on the job 

Currently, the only pins that Starbucks ``partners`` are allowed to wear are the ones that are issued by store managers and/or shift supervisors as noneconomic rewards for good job performance. 

And, of course, their are those 11 x 17 NLRB legal notices that will be taped up in the backrooms of the 2 stores in question, in which the company will solumnly swear that it will never again violate the labor rights of their workers. 

Curiously, the IWW is pushing this as the biggest ``victory``. 

Apparently, the IWW organizers would have workers believe that those two pieces of paper tacked to company bulletin boards have some supernatural powers to stop labor abuses on the job! 

This reflects the broader unwillingness to face reality that has been evident in IWW public statements on this matter issued over the last 2 days. 

The IWW union press releases have, bizarrely trumpeted this legal settlement as a union ``victory`` 

Unfortunately, far too many unions do that - use press release bluster and public relations BS to magically transform defeats into paper ``victories``. 

Apparently, the people who run the ``wobblies``, despite their professed revolutionary anarchist status, share the common view among American union leaders of all political stripes today that workers are a bunch of idiots, who can't tell a victory from a defeat. 

Let's face it, this looks to be a defeat for the IWW. 

The court case thing is a good exit strategy. 

They took care of their members who got fired by the employer, got a minor legal slap on the wrist for Starbucks and the IWW can walk away with their heads held high. 

The cold hard reality is, Starbucks has, I believe, over 150 stores in New York City alone. Those three stores would have never made it as a viable barganing unit. 

Especially in light of the fact that Starbucks can, and does, transfer ``partners`` between stores on a pretty regular basis. 

It's known as ``working extra shifts`` and a barista who needs extra hours can be permitted to work at another store. 

They can even permanently transfer between stores, as long as their new ``home store`` has the same district manager as their old one. 

So, it would have been extremely easy for Starbucks to flood those stores with pro management workers, wait a year, and then have some of those workers file a decertification petition with the NLRB 

There are quite a few baristas who want to be shift supervisors - and even the minor reward of a ``black apron`` (a company reward for those baristas who are extremely knowledgeble about coffee - you actually have to take a test to get one) is very tempting for at least some Starbucks ``partners`` 

Beyond flooding the stores with anti union workers, Starbucks has another weapon. 

Like many modern retailers, Starbucks has a well developed internal espionage network. 

Besides the elaborate video surveillance system in every store, they also have what are called ``secret shoppers``. 

These ``secret shoppers`` are management-hired spies, sent to the stores by Starbucks to monitor their workers. 

They send in reports to management on ``partners`` who are, supposedly, not performing their jobs correctly. 

Baristas can be, and are, disciplined by management, solely based on the reports of these ``secret shoppers``. 

So, even if the IWW had won union recognition in those 3 stores, it would have been extremely easy for Starbucks to simply send ``secret shoppers`` into those stores on a daily basis, or even several times a day. 

It would then be a simple matter of making sure that the ``secret shoppers`` found fault with the job performance of the pro union ``partners`` - even if they had to make up stuff. 

Then, it would be a simple matter for management to use that avalanche of bad reports to fire that person LEGALLY. 

I don't mean to be critical of the brothers and sisters in the IWW, but it appears that they really didn't think this one through. 

After all, how do you organize a workforce largely composed of what sociologists call ``transitional workers``, who are in school, see this job as a stepping stone to bigger and better things in their lives and who won't even be there in a year or two? 

And where the non transitional workers tend to be people who aspire to be, or already are, supervisors? 

And where the company has a formidable repressive apparatus, ready and waiting to be deployed (NLRB legal notices taped to the wall notwistanding) 

I don't pretend to know the answer to those questions. 

Apparently, the IWW doesn't either. 

It would be nice if the IWW was honest enough to admit they lost this drive. 

Everybody makes mistakes, but the true test of a person is if she learns from her errors, rather than trying to cover them up. 

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