Friday, July 9, 2010

Organizing In The Retail Sector: Starbucks

I live in Washington, DC. There is a spot in Dupont Circle where you can actually see three Starbucks simultaneously. There are approximately 11,000 Starbucks locations in the United States, which with an average of 7 employees in each store, would equal about 75,000 employees in the US, out of the 142,000 total employees worldwide.
While there is an existing upstart Starbucks Workers Union, it has not attracted much of a following outside of New York and Chicago. The main reason for this is that they are affiliated with the IWW(Industrial Workers of the World) which according to its own estimates, currently has around 900 members in good standing. While I support rank-and-file unions in general, and I support what the IWW does most of the time, I believe that it will take significant resources in order to organize Starbucks employees in the Unites States. Here is why:

1. Starbucks does not franchise.

Because of this, there will pretty much need to be an all out blitz across the nation. This would take an army of organizers and volunteers. The IWW simply does not have the resources to accomplish a campaign of this magnitude, and unfortunately, many Starbucks employees would balk at the dues rates of the UFCW, who is big enough to do it.

2. Starbucks has the money to launch a serious union-busting campaign.
Given the fact that organizing Starbucks would likely have to be a national campaign, it would give the corporation the time to coordinate a massive union-busting effort. A lot of employees would probably get fired in the process, and high turnover rates would make the job even more difficult.

I think that Starbucks can be organized, but it will take an effort that will require significant cooperation from various labor organizations that frankly, do not have a good history of working together.

In the meantime, why not donate to the SWU(Starbucks Workers Union) ? They have been fighting this battle for six years, and could use all the help they can get.

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