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Starbucks Goes Union in Minnesota

For Immediate Release:
Starbucks Workers Union/Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
Contact: Erik Forman, 612-245-4871
July 21, 2008

Starbucks Baristas at the Mall of America Stop Work to Protest Store Closures

Workers Demand Right to Transfer and Fair Severance for Affected Employees

Press Conference July 22, 12 noon, Mall of America Northside Parking Lot

Twin Cities, MN- Baristas at the Mall of America Starbucks walked off the café floor today and delivered a demand letter to management calling for just treatment of all employees affected by Starbucks’ closure of stores nationwide. The surprise job action comes in the wake of the coffee giant’s announcement that it will close 600 stores, including 27 in Minnesota.

The baristas demanded an option to transfer to other stores and a fair severance package for affected workers. Starbucks reportedly plans to give workers just one month notice before laying them off with a paltry two weeks’ pay The company will insist that some baristas transfer and will revoke severance pay if transfer offers are refused.

The protesting baristas are members of the Starbucks Workers Union, which is a campaign of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. Starbucks previously backtracked on its refusal to disclose which locations would be shuttered after the union and others condemned the company for leaving workers in a nerve-wracking limbo.

The store action makes the Mall of America location the first Starbucks in Minnesota, and the first store in the Mall of America, to have a public union presence.

Erik Forman, a barista at the store recently fired for union activity, said, “With the skyrocketing cost of living, workers have no other choice than to stand up for improvements on the job. The alternative is a continued decline into poverty and a degraded quality of life for working families. But this doesn’t have to happen. Our message is hope- even at Starbucks in the Mall of America, we can organize and fight!”

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, and Grand Rapids.

Union baristas, bussers, and shift supervisors have fought successfully toward improved scheduling and staffing levels, increased wages, and workplace safety. Workers who join the union have immediate access to co-workers and members of the community who will struggle with them for a better life on the job.