The Wobblies may never succeed in unionizing the world’s largest chain of coffee shops, but they are putting a serious dent in Starbucks’ shiny corporate image.
On March 30, the National Labor Relations Board brought new charges against the Seattle-based company, citing 30 separate counts of Starbucks firing or harassing union-affiliated workers at four Manhattan stores where the Industrial Workers of the World first launched its organizing drive in 2003.
The charges follow a settlement that Starbucks signed one year ago to reinstate two union activists who had been fired. The IWW then filed a new complaint on behalf of six others who were fired, leading to the current charges, which Starbucks will have a chance to rebut before an administrative law judge.
In 2005, the company paid a total of $165,000 for similar charges of union-busting activities at the company’s roasting plant in Kent.
“This company is a serial violator of workers’ rights,” says IWW Starbucks organizer Daniel Gross, who says the tide is turning against the low pay and benefits that Starbucks provides its workers. The union is growing everyday, Gross says, “despite an almost three-year campaign of illegal dirty tricks to defeat us.”
Bob Baker is back, and this time he’s working with paid signature-gatherers.
Baker is the Mercer Island man who filed an initiative last year aimed at taking away state assistance from anyone who can’t prove that he or she was born or resides legally in the United States. After a court challenge to his petitions from immigrant rights activists, Baker failed to get enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
This year, Baker, a member of the Minuteman group that conducts armed patrols on the Canadian and Mexican borders, is trying again with Initiative 966. To get on the November ballot, he needs to gather 224,000 signatures by July 7. This time, Baker says, he has hired a team of about 80 signature-gatherers and is starting out with a bigger base in cities like Yakima, Wenatchee, and Spokane.
Baker says he’s trying to save taxpayers money by cutting off non-citizens. But, if I-966 passed, it would force every applicant for assistance or services (but not medical care) to show a certified birth certificate or passport, creating a roadblock for citizens and non-citizens alike, says Pramila Jayapal, director of Washington’s Hate Free Zone, which plans to fight the measure again this year.
I-966 “is not about blocking services for immigrants,” Jayapal says. “It would create racial profiling and a public health crisis for all people.”