Starbucks workers in Nebraska hold work stoppage

On 5th August 2010, baristas at a Starbucks in Omaha, Nebraska held a short work stoppage and demanded a reversal to the recession-era cuts that have been forced upon them.

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on August 19, 2010

August 5,2010- Omaha, NE- Baristas and community supporters shut down the 15th and Douglas Starbucks (SBUX) this morning demanding that management reverse all cuts to healthcare, staffing, and benefits that have been imposed during the recession. The baristas claim that executives have no justification to squeeze working families with Starbucks raking in profits of $977.2 million in the past four fiscal quarters.

“We are being squeezed, and we can't take it any more. Since the recession began, Starbucks executives have ruthlessly gutted our standard of living. They doubled the cost of our health insurance, reduced staffing levels, cut our hours, all while demanding more work from us. Starbucks is now more than profitable again. It's time for management to give back what they took from us,” said Sasha McCoy, a shift supervisor at the store.

Since the onset of the recession, Starbucks imposed a series of deep cuts on its workforce. Starting in 2008 as the economic downturn began, the coffee giant shuttered over 800 stores and slashed over 18000 jobs. The remaining skeleton crew workforce was stretched out, forced to push VIA and other promotional products while keeping the stores running with insufficient staffing levels. CEO Howard Schultz then doubled the cost of the company health insurance plan in September 2009, leaving many workers unable to afford medical treatment because of sky-high deductibles and premiums. While the cuts continue, Starbucks made a record profit of $207.9 million in the last quarter according to company figures.

The protesting baristas are members of the Starbucks Workers Union, which is an international campaign of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union. The store action makes the 15th and Douglas location the first Starbucks in Nebraska to have a public union presence. The workers decided to move to unionize after watching their standard of living be whittled away while top executives chose to reward investors with dividends. Samantha Cole, a Barista at the store said, “I work hard for every dollar I make in order to put food on the table for my family; Starbucks rewards workers with a poverty wage while they give their Wall Street pals dividends. I'm not doing this for myself so much as for the next generation that will grow up in this country. These are the only jobs that are left here- we need to make sure they are good jobs for working families.”

While portraying itself as a ‘socially-responsible’ employer, Starbucks pays Nebraska baristas a poverty wage of $7.35/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 numerous complaints against it and was recently found guilty 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 300 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 and Canada fighting for systemic change at the company and remedying individual grievances with management.

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.