Put down that grande non-fat caramel macchiato or whatever Starbucks concoction you’re drinking. Turns out the coffee giant has a history of being anti-barista, anti-union, and thus anti-Employee Free Choice Act.
In fact, Starbucks’ nasty labor practices make the company look an awful lot like Wal-Mart. The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly found Starbucks guilty of illegally terminating, harassing, intimidating, and discriminating against employees attempting to unionize. Starbucks has settled five 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. And Starbucks has led the charge on a so-called Employee Free Choice Act “compromise,” which would require 70 percent of workers to sign union authorization cards instead of the much more manageable 50 percent initially proposed by this legislation.
We’ve known for a while where Starbucks billionaire CEO Howard Schultz stands on unions. After all, it was Schultz who once said that if workers “had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union.” While Starbucks pretends to be pro-barista, claiming to offer workers decent wages and health insurance, these “progressive” policies are less substantive than the company’s frothy milk-based beverages. The reality is, as Liza Featherstone has noted, Starbucks insures a lower percentage of its workers than Wal-Mart.
Less than 42 percent of Starbucks’ 127,000 baristas in the U.S. are insured by the company, whereas Wal-Mart insures 47 percent of its employees. To make matters worse, Starbucks offers its workers wages similar to those earned by Wal-Mart employees, and Starbucks does not guarantee workers set hours. Instead, the company follows an Optimal Scheduling policy that requires baristas to make themselves available 70 percent of open store hours just to work full time in any given week. This means that low-wage earning baristas do not have time to take a second job. Moreover, it precludes tens of thousands of Starbucks employees from working the 240 hours per quarter needed to qualify for the company’s health insurance.
Brave New Films is gearing up to take on Starbucks with the same tenacity used in the fight against Wal-Mart. Tomorrow, BNF will spill the beans about Starbucks’ labor practices with the first video in its newest campaign, Stop Starbucks. In the meantime, sign the memo to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz insisting he allow workers to unionize.
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.
On GRITtv our media panel looks at the economic coverage of the past week, the labor movement, and the healthcare battle. Nation writer JoAnn Wypijewski, Robert Johnson former chief economist of the Senate Banking Committee, and Mark Brenner Director of Labor Notes take apart the conventional narrative of what’s happening to our economy. On that note, Wypijewski’s recent piece in Counterpunch, Death at Work in America, sheds some light on just what the media have missed.
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.
With a multi-million dollar campaign to defeat the bill under way, Fox News has enthusiastically taken up the anti-union, Big Business talking points. Even putting aside the network’s frequent right-wing guests, Fox News hosts describe EFCA using anti-union rhetoric while constantly distorting the truth about the legislation:
– BILL HEMMER: “Soon Americans who want to say no to unions might not be able to vote in private.”
– BILL O’REILLY: “Union officials have an open invitation to appear here on The Factor. They won’t, because their arguments for socialism won’t stand up.”
– MARTHA MACCULLUM: “This is going to make it very tough for small businesses to function. … They might have to lay people off!”
We’ve been fighting for Employee Free Choice for months. Together with SEIU, we pressured Burger King to backtrack on their anti-labor position. We pushed for Hilda Solis, a true progressive champion of the working class, to be confirmed as Labor Secretary. And all along the way, we’ve dispelled the myths about Employee Free Choice, calling out Fox News, Republicans, and anti-union CEOs like Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus and Wal-Mart’s Lee Scott for distorting what this bill would mean for hardworking Americans.
Now that Hilda Solis is Labor Secretary, we stand a great chance to make Employee Free Choice a reality. Workers will be able to unionize more easily and negotiate better wages, benefits, and working conditions. But we’re still fighting an ideological battle with conservatives, which will only intensify as Employee Free Choice nears a vote. That’s why SEIU continues to roll out great video campaigns like this one:
Our country is on the verge of “armageddon,” “nuclear war,” and “the demise of a civilization.”
According to CEOs and their front groups, the fabric of our nation may well fall apart, all because of the Employee Free Choice Act. Its opponents no longer debate the merits of the bill, and instead resort to hyperbolic vitriol intended to inflame the public and press.
In reality, the Employee Free Choice Act is a bipartisan, common sense economic recovery for working families that will pump billions into our nation’s economy.
The Huffington Post reports that there is growing concern in organized labor that a faction of Democratic senators will vote against the Employee Free Choice Act, thus killing it. Unions will (and should) work hard on a state-by-state basis to keep Democratic lawmakers on board (and I promise to do my part to get my own wavering Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet on board), but it seems to me there’s a much easier way to enforce unity: Make Harry Reid choose between getting every Democrat on board, or ending his political career.
This is not a far-fetched idea. In fact, the inevitable whining, screaming and moaning from Establishment Democrats aside, it would be relatively simple to pull off, and Reid – a smart politician – would know that labor could pull it off in a state like his.
Solis would arguably be the most liberal appointee in Obama’s Cabinet. Daughter of immigrant father who became a Teamster organizer at a battery recycling factory and an immigrant mother who worked a factory line, she’s never been one to give mere lip service to labor issues. She was a key player in a hard-won voter-initiative fight over the California minimum wage, an increase of which then-Gov. Pete Wilson had vetoed. She’s been solidly behind environmental protections, particularly in the arena of environmental justice. Having been raised near a landfill east of Los Angeles, she authored 1999 state legislation that called for “the fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws,” the first such law in the nation.
We’re in the home stretch to get Hilda Solis confirmed as Labor Secretary. Tomorrow, the Senate will hold its first vote to confirm Solis, ending months of delay tactics from the GOP in what has become a heated confirmation battle. Make no mistake, Solis represents a champion of the middle class, a true progressive who can help turn the tide of this recession by creating green collar jobs and enabling workers to negotiate better wages, benefits, and working conditions. And you can help get her confirmed by sending a quick letter to your Senators on the SIEU’s website.