Friday, December 31, 2010

Direct Action Opportunity

As you may remember, I have written about the Starbucks Workers Union(SWU/IWW) before, and it seems we have an opportunity to lend a hand with some direct action.  The just received a message from the IWW that they could use some help from labor activists to bring some justice to a union member who has been fighting for better working conditions in Nebraska, and has come under attack.

Here is the message from the IWW:

As of 12/30 SWU Barista and Organizer Tyler Swain has been suspended with pay from Starbucks Coffee Company. We believe over the last 5 months, since the Nebraska SWU went public with it's organizing campaign, Starbucks corporate has been aggressively working to terminate FW Swain's employment with the company because of his union activity.

During this period of time FW Swain has been written up 6 times, for trumped up charges ranging from cash handling violations to insubordination. During this time Starbucks has also attempted and failed to drum up various ethics allegations against FW Swain, alleging that he has been sexually involved with other workers, and attempting to pressure workers into coming forward on made up sexual harassment allegations. All of these attempts to fire FW Swain to this point have failed, because they are unjust.

Now however, a new manager has been placed at his store, as well as a new District Manager in charge of his area, and they are no doubt trying to earn points in there new positions by ridding the company of FW Swain.

Please call District Manager Heather West at (402)321-3611 Begining at 9:00 am CST and voice your support for the workers of the Nebraska SWU.

Hello, my name is , and I'm calling to express concern over the way Scott Creed has treated his workers since taking over the management position at the 15th and Douglas store. He is disrespectful to his workers, managing in an atmosphere of fear, rather than support and open dialogue. Workers deserve a respectful and safe environment to work, these are the aims of the Nebraska SWU, and I support their cause. 


Please Forward to all interested parties.

This afternoon the store manager of the 15th and Douglas Starbucks took action to terminate FW Tyler Swain because of his engagement in union activities. FW Swain enacted his Weingarten Rights before the conversation began, and Scott Creed and district manager Heather West promptly denied his right at which point FW Swain refused to take part in the conversation and walked out.

We urge all members and supporters to please call Scott Creed directly and let him know that his unfair and biased treatment of his workers will not be tolerated, that we are well aware of his unjust actions and will not stand idly by as he tries to force workers to submit by removing FW Swain from the workplace.

Contact Scott Creed at


*UPDATE* Scott turned off his cell phone last night. He is staying at the Sleep Inn; please call 402.342.2525 and ask for Scott Creed if he does not answer his cell phone.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Resolutions for the New Year

With just a few days remaining in 2010, I am reflecting, as I usually do, on the last year, and where I'd like to go next year.  This year I'm making a list on labor-related things I'd like to get done in the next year.

1.  More substantive posts here on The Virtual Picket Line.

2. Reach 5,000 hits on the VPL Blog.

3. Land a Union Staff job. (This has been on the list going on 4 years)

4. Quit Smoking. (Actually, this finally gets taken off the list after 8 years - I quit about a month ago)

5. Finish my 1st book, start on my 2nd.

6. Establish VPL as a legitimate labor journalism entity.

7. Land more interviews with top labor officials.

Happy New Year!

In Solidarity,

Joseph Riedel

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Greetings From The Virtual Picket Line

Happy ChristmaChanuKwaanzakah!

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season.  Please make sure you patronize union shops for your shopping needs.  For a guide to buying just about any kind of product from a union shop, check out this website:

Enjoy the Festivus, and look for VPL's list of New Year's Resolutions coming in the next week or so.

In Solidarity,


UFCW Wins Free Speech Battle in Canada

If only they were as successful in their attempts to organize Wal-Mart...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Labor Movement and St. Paul

Did you know that trade unions played an instrumental part in the growth of Christianity during the first years of its existence?  Many people are aware that St Paul undertook three major journeys in the course of his work to spread Christianity.  Paul visited much of the Roman empire, with stops in cities such as Phillippi, Corinth, Thessalonica, and Ephesus along the way.  What most people don't realize is that much of Paul's major travel would not have been available if it hadn't been for his union membership.

Paul was a union member?  YES!

You see, Paul was a tent maker by trade, and was a member of a tent maker's guild that had given him the contacts in the various cities, as well as access inside the cities.  In those days, one couldn't just walk up the the gates of a city and walk right in.  You needed someone to vouch for you, and Paul's membership in the tent maker's guild provided that for him.

So, whatever your view of Christianity, it is important sometimes to see how the labor movement has shaped history, even going back a few thousand years.

In Solidarity,


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Could The NFL Lockout Unite The Labor Movement?

With the CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA set to expire after this season, the NFL is facing the very real possibility of a lockout when the free-agency period begins.  The fact that the owners unanimously agreed to opt out of the extension until 2012 makes this possibility all the more likely.  I for one believe this is very likely to take place.  The reason I believe this is that the NFL team owners have an agreement with DirecTV that pays each owner $1 Billion even if there are no games played.  

Did you catch that?

The owners make $1 Billion with no overhead or investment.  Why would they even consider negotiating with the NFLPA?  The answer is that they won't.  As is the case with most labor disputes, this is all about the money.

As bad as this situation appears for the NFLPA, their brothers and sisters(us!) in the labor movement may be able to save the day.  Imagine if, starting tomorrow, every union that has any members that do any work that affects the NFL(stadiums, concessions, supplies, etc) started putting public pressure on the NFL owners to come back to the table and bargain in good faith.  Can you picture union members picketing outside the stadiums this December and throughout the playoffs to protect the jobs of construction workers and maintenance workers who really make the NFL run every week?

The reality is that Big Labor has a huge opportunity to make some inroads in the realm of public relations, while at the same time standing up for it's members, from the athletes, to the vendors.  

Perhaps the AFL-CIO and CtW could come together and purchase a Super Bowl ad.  Now that's Solidarity!

In Solidarity,


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why The Federal Pay Freeze Is Clintonian Triangulation, And Why Having a Union Contract Matters

This past week, the White House announced a proposal to freeze all federal employees for two years, with the exception of active duty military personnel.  This seems eerily similar to President Clinton's behavior after the massive losses in 1994.  Obama, like Clinton, is making a foolhardy attempt to prove that his "Presidency still has relevance," and is proposing this pay freeze in order to beat the GOP to their own position.  This makes me wonder if Dick Morris is hiding out somewhere at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

My problem with this proposed freeze is that there is a better solution if President Obama wanted to institute a freeze while sparing the middle-class federal workers - Institute the pay freeze, with an exemption for employees making under $50k.  Since federal pay increases are based upon percentage of salary(I received .30 an hour last year), the real money savings are on the overpaid management salaries.  For instance, cutting the President's salary from $400k to $200k for one year would save more money than freezing 320 employees with my salary.  Cutting the salary of one member of the House of Representatives from $177k to $100k for one year is the equivalent of freezing over 160 federal employees with my salary.  There are 435 members of the House of Representatives.  Drop their salaries for a year to $100k(still overpaid), and you have the equivalent of  freezing the salaries of nearly 54k federal employees making under $50k.

So what good is a union contract if they are going to freeze federal pay?  Our union contract guarantees our longevity and performance-based pay increases.  This safeguards us from instances like this when we become a political football.  Without our union contract, we would almost certainly have all pay increases frozen.  Before we kick and scream at our union leaders for a federal freeze that they are already fighting against, we should thank the members of the bargaining committee from the last contract negotiations.

In Solidarity,