The job of serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan is difficult enough. Our servicemembers shouldn’t face the added challenge of finding good jobs once they return home. That’s why veterans are calling on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to support The Employee Free Choice Act, which would enable workers to unionize more easily and negotiate better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Watch the compelling testimonies of vets at a recent town hall meeting in Los Angeles, sponsored by the Veterans Committee of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO. Then take action by calling Sen. Feinstein at 202-224-3121.
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis supports Employee Free Choice, so why is Feinstein looking for a compromise on this legislation? This video will be running outside Feinstein’s office today; hopefully, that and your calls will help drive the message home.
Since Brave New Films launched Stop Starbucks last week, over 50,000 people watched the video, “What do Starbucks and Wal-Mart have in common?” and 15,000 signed the petition insisting CEO Howard Schultz support his workers’ unionization efforts. The latest video, “Starbucks’ Health Care Policy Is Sickening,” takes the Wal-Mart comparison even further, considering Starbucks insures less than 42 percent of its employees in the US — a rate lower than Wal-Mart. Watch as a former Starbucks worker explains how Starbucks routinely precludes employees from working the 20 hours a week (or 240 hours per quarter) necessary to qualify for the company’s health insurance.
The shocking truth about Starbucks’ health care policy and anti-labor practices belie the company’s “progressive” veneer. Give Schultz a call and tell him to quit his anti-union ways: (206) 318-1575.
You can also enter the Stop Starbucks contest, which caught fire last week when Boing Boing, Bloggasm, and others credited Stop Starbucks with undercutting the company’s recent multi-million dollar ad campaign.
When Robert Greenwald first told us that our next campaign was going to be about Starbucks, a lot of us here at Brave New Films were very surprised. We’ve all had the “Starbucks experience;” smooth folksy music, leather couches, community book shelves, luxury drinks, and cheerful barista service. It just feels good to be inside a Starbucks, and why shouldn’t it? All around the store are signals that coffee makers and drinkers are part of a blissful, ethical community where everyone is taken care of with health care and dignity on the job. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says that workers should “believe in their hearts that management trusted them and treated them with respect…If they had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union.”
I’m not naive enough to believe that a transnational mega corporation truly is all that it claims to be, but when our production teams started investigating Starbucks’ corporate response to coffee roaster and barista unions, I was shocked. Starbucks has forced store managers to work overtime without pay, fired people for talking about a union, discriminated in hiring against people with a past union affiliation, and is lobbying hard against the passage of EFCA. Oh, and those health benefits for “partners” they make a big deal about? You need to work 240 hours a quarter to be eligible – and anyone who has worked retail or service jobs part-time know that we have almost no control over the amount of hours that are set for us. Just to put it in perspective, Starbucks insures less than 42% of its workers – while Wal-Mart insures 47%.
The momentum to Stop Starbucks’ horrendous anti-labor practices is building. In just one day, 10,000 people have signed the memo insisting Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz allow workers to unionize. Meanwhile Starbucks drew the wrath of Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD) yesterday. As members of Congress, union leaders, and clergy gathered for a Capitol Hill prayer breakfast to pray for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, Edwards declared she no longer held “coffee conversations” at Starbucks in her district because of the company’s opposition to this vital legislation.
As I wrote yesterday, Starbucks is part of the Orwellian-sounding Committee for Level Playing Field. (Notice the pattern with Starbucks speak. The company sticks to an “Optimal Scheduling” policy that is anything but optimal for its “partners,” which is the company’s clever name for workers, even though Starbucks routinely disrespects these employees by punishing them for participating in union activities.) Along with Whole Foods and Costco, Starbucks is pushing for a compromise on Employee Free Choice that would basically keep secret ballot elections in place that are prone to intimidation, without truly allowing for the union authorization card alternative proposed by the legislation. The Committee’s so-called compromise would also increase penalties for companies that discriminate against workers trying to unionize, which is ironic considering Starbucks is one of those companies and has repeatedly violated the National Labor Relations Act.
Now here’s the fun part. There’s a lot you can do to let Starbucks know they should stop harassing workers for exercising their rights to unionize and negotiate for better pay, benefits, and working conditions. Starbucks currently has a site, My Starbucks Idea, calling for ideas from people to “shape the future of Starbucks.” This is a great chance to tell Starbucks what you really think. Here’s what I wrote, head to the site and vote it up or submit your own idea:
Allow Your Workers to Unionize
An increasing number of Starbucks employees want to join a union to negotiate fairer wages, benefits, and working conditions. And in just one day, 10,000 people have joined the Stop Starbucks campaign (http://stopstarbucks.com/), signing a memo to Starbucks’ billionaire CEO Howard Schultz insisting he allow workers to unionize. If Starbucks is truly the progressive company it pretends to be, it will allow workers to unionize without fear of reprisals.
Starbucks has a nasty history of being anti-barista, anti-union, and thus anti-Employee Free Choice Act as well. The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly found Starbucks guilty of illegally terminating, harassing, intimidating, and discriminating against employees attempting to unionize. Late last year, a judge ruled Starbucks had committed over a dozen violations of the National Labor Relations Act at a few New York stores. Starbucks has settled five such labor disputes in the last few years in New York, Minnesota, and Michigan, spending millions on legal fees to avoid exposing their anti-worker ways.
Howard Schultz has said if workers “had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union.” If Schultz really wants workers to trust him, Starbucks wouldn’t go to such great lengths to keep workers from joining a union.
Make a sign and take a photo of yourself with it in front of a Starbucks poster or Starbucks store and post it to TwitPic.com. This site automatically uploads your photo and comment to your Twitter page. Our message is focused on Starbucks’ anti-labor practices, but feel free to point out other company practices with which you disagree. (See photo above for an example.)
In your post, write what was on your sign or something else like: “Thanks a latte for nothing, Mr. Schultz,” Spill the beans about Starbucks’ union busting,” or “Mr. Schultz, let your workers unionize!”
Use these two hashtags in your post: #top3percent and #starbucks. (Just copy-paste them to the end of your message.) The first hashtag is the one Starbucks is using for the contest and assures their execs will see it, and the second is for people who check out Starbucks on Twitter. It’s important to include these in your post.
Both corporate giants have long track records of harassing their workers when it comes to joining unions. Harassment and intimidation are illegal under Federal law, and we won’t stand for it. Tell Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ billionaire owner, to respect the people who work for Starbucks.
“The regional manager literally told us that we weren’t allowed to invite people to union meetings…that’s the same kind of violation that you see at Wal-Mart,” said Erik Forman, a former Starbucks employee fired for union organizing.
Starbucks, like retail giant Wal-Mart, has a well-established history of breaking labor laws. The company has spent millions settling five labor complaints in the past few years alone, and it has fought hard against the Employee Free Choice Act in an attempt to continue intimidating workers hoping to unionize. In 2005, we took on Wal-Mart for their assault on workers with Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Now we are exposing Starbucks’ atrocious labor practices in our newest campaign, Stop Starbucks.
Sign the memo insisting Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz allow workers to unionize. Help us reach 50,000 signatures before Congress votes on the Employee Free Choice Act. We will deliver the petition to Schultz, sending the clear message that corporations should support this vital legislation.
There are over 127,000 baristas in our country alone, many of whom are in dire need of better wages, health benefits, and hours. Shouldn’t they have the right to be treated fairly? Sign the memo and tell Schultz to stop his mistreatment of workers.
After President Obama backed off his campaign promise to aggressively push “cram down” (ie. the bill allowing bankruptcy judges to force banks to rewrite home loans so as to prevent foreclosure), it’s fair to be concerned that his calculated behavior on that bill might preview such behavior on other bills. As the Washington Independent reports, it wasn’t that Obama was too busy or too distracted to push cramdown – it was a deliberate tactical decision to publicly push the popular bill, but then not actually use any political capital in Congress to make the bill a reality. The motive for the two-step is obvious: Obama aims to get public credit for populist positions, while wink-and-nodding his way to moneyed-interest appeasement – in this case, the banking industry.
So I’m wondering – is this what’s going on on the Employee Free Choice Act? Obama has consistently told public audiences that he supports it, but it’s pretty clear he hasn’t used his political capital in Congress to push it very hard. Some may float the Secret Pony Plan theory – the idea that Obama is waiting for the perfect time to push it, or is employing some other good-natured strategery aimed at passing the bill but that us fools outside the Beltway can’t possibly understand.
Continuing with his (as Alan Colmes calls it) “Save My Legacy” tour, Dick Cheney visited Your World with Neil Cavuto yesterday. Cheney insisted he is not anti-union, citing an earlier membership in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. But in his next breath, Cheney falsely claimed the Employee Free Choice Act would eliminate secret ballots “in terms of the question of organizing unions.” Then Cheney went on to praise Ronald Reagan’s firing of every striking air traffic controller in 1981. I’d hate to know what Cheney’s version of anti-union looks like.
During the second of a two-part interview on Your World, Cheney said, “I’m not anti-labor union. I carried a ticket for six years in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in my youth… I do think the legislation that the administration’s supporting and that the unions are pushing hard, the so called ‘card check’ law would do away with the secret ballot in terms of the question of organizing unions. I think it would be a huge mistake.”
As The Christian Science Monitor reported (H/T Media Matters), the Employee Free Choice Act does not “do away with the secret ballot.” It gives workers a choice of forming a union through majority sign-up (“card check”) or an election by secret ballot.
Compromises, compromises, everywhere. Even in the media coverage.
The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is in trouble. US Senator Tom Harkin, who sponsored a bill to make it easier for workers to join unions, said May 4th that the main provision may have to be dropped. Apparently, Harkin believes there isn’t enough support for the provision, which is known as card-check, to allow the law to pass. Card check would allow workers, if they wanted to, to bypass a formal election and form a union when a majority of them sign cards requesting one.
“Compromises are going to be made,” Harkin said on the 4th, as reported by the New York Times. Too many lawmakers such as Senator Blanche Lincoln, an Arkansas Democrat, say they wouldn’t support the law.
But that’s no reason for the Times to compromise. Describing the fight as one between an opposition led by Walmart Stores and a defense put up by Labor, the Times reports that those groups “spent about $100 million last year to elect Democrats and have made passing the card-check measure their top goal in Washington this year.”
How much have Walmart et al spent to defeat the bill? The Times doesn’t say. According to a recent report by Open Secrets, in the 2007-2008 election cycle, business PAC’s spent over $365 million to defeat the Employee Free Choice Act and were backed by the US Chamber of Commerce, which spent $144.4 million or more that $400,000 for every day Congress was in session. The entire labor sector spent less than $84 million on lobbying efforts in those two years.
Walmart pulls in billions every year but barely pays its workers a living wage. Not only that but they’ve aggressively resisted efforts among workers to unionize. Walmart’s slogan is Save Money, Live Better. As Vikki Gill, a former Walmart store manager in Illinois says, the company is saving money and living better at the associate’s expense. In this documentary from Walmart Workers for Change, employees discuss their fight for a living wage, union representation, and decent benefits. Walmart’s union busting tactics are notorious but Union Federation Change to Win has been turning up the heat lately and says efforts to unionize are underway at over 100 stores.