Starbucks Targeted for Anti-Union Activity

Over the past several years, has regularly reported on efforts aimed at organizing Starbucks workers both here in Grand Rapids and around the country. The Starbucks Workers Union just celebrated its fifth anniversary despite an ongoing campaign of anti-union intimidation by Starbucks.

Since the union’s formation, Starbucks has been convicted multiple times of violating the National Labor Relations Act. At the same time it is waging this aggressive anti-union campaign, Starbucks is also working to prevent the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that would make it easier to form unions. The Act would also increase sanctions against companies like Starbucks.

Brave New Films has produced a very good short video that looks at organizing efforts at Starbucks and the company’s anti-union behavior:

In addition to the film, Brave New Films has also launched a new website, that aims to place the company under increased scrutiny.

As part of the new website, there is a petition that demands that Starbucks allow its employees to form unions and asks that it stop opposing the Employee Free Choice Act. Signing it is a great way to follow-up on the organizing done by the Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union.

Starbucks Workers Union Celebrates Fifth Anniversary

Starbucks Workers Union

The Starbucks Workers Union–which has been active here in Grand Rapids–celebrated its fifth anniversary on May 17. To commemorate the union and its organizing efforts to improve conditions for Starbucks baristas, the Union issued the following statement:

May 17, 2009 marks five years since baristas at a Starbucks in New York City announced their membership in the Industrial Workers of the World and launched a campaign open to employees throughout the company. A worker-led organizing effort with the legendary IWW at the world’s largest coffee chain could have been a flash in the pan- brilliant and inspiring, but brief. But a fire was lit and a movement began. The idea that Starbucks workers could organize themselves and speak in their own voice, independent of company executives and union bureaucrats, could not be restrained.

The bosses did their best to defeat us, to bury any indication of our existence under a heap of lies and retaliatory firings. They tried to stamp us out, even as the campaign for secure jobs and a living wage burst from New York into Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota and beyond.

While Starbucks used the economic crisis as a pretext for an all-out assault on our already meager standard of living, our struggle gained momentum this year amidst a stark decline of the company’s brand and widespread store closures. Baristas around the country and around the world made the decision to organize and fight back against severe cuts in work hours, chronic under staffing, and a new “Optimal Scheduling” program which forces many workers to be available to Starbucks for over 80 hours a week without being guaranteed a single work hour.

This journey has been full of set-backs and tests of will. Progress has been made yet much remains to be done. But one thing is certain: our voice for dignity is firmly planted and our union’s future is bright.

The biggest battles remain ahead, but every day our ranks deepen. We are confident in our solidarity and could not be more proud to be associated with our fellow workers across the IWW and like-minded unionists around the world. This year, courageous baristas in Chile became the first Starbucks workers in Latin America to raise a union banner.

The corporate-controlled economic, social, and political model has been exposed everywhere as a failure for working families. And everyday workers are bolder and more assertive in the fight against injustice and exploitation. The notion that democracy has no place at work has been exposed as a lie.

To every worker who loves liberty: this is our time!

Together we organize. Together we struggle. Together we win!

MI-OSHA Starbucks Trial Postponed

Starbucks Workers Union Michigan

From the Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union:

Starbucks has been granted a postponement for the trial that was to begin today [Monday].

This latest announcement comes a couple months after Starbucks settled charges with the National Labor Relations Board over a wrongful termination of an IWW Starbucks Workers Union member in Grand Rapids. In that settlement, the Board allowed Starbucks to forgo a trial by agreeing to rescind the write-ups and termination of Cole Dorsey, the IWW member.

Starbucks offered $3500 to withdraw all charges from the beginning.

The Union has always maintained the only solution is full and immediate reinstatement of Dorsey to his former position.

Although the NLRB agreed Starbucks violated the law they did not require reinstatement.

That marked the third time, in two years, Starbucks signed a settlement with the NLRB claiming they would end “anti-union intimidation in Grand Rapids.

After an independent investigation the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration also found that Dorsey was wrongfully terminated for filing a safety complaint.

That trial is slated to begin April 29, 2009 9 am.

In related news, the Starbucks Workers Union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board after a pro-union barista in Chicago was laid-off following his attempt to speak with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

Starbucks Union Discusses Organizing Efforts in Grand Rapids, Twin Cities

Over the weekend, Cole Dorsey of the Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union along with Erik Forman and Angel Gardner of the Twin Cities Starbucks Workers Union spoke at The NorthStar Center on organizing at Starbucks and what it means for the future of the labor organizing in the United States:

Thanks to for recording the event.

Starbucks Union Event in Lansing Saturday

Two Members of the Starbucks Workers Union will be Speaking in Lansing

A fired Starbucks barista and member of Grand Rapids’ Starbucks Workers Union will be speaking in Lansing about the campaign to organize Starbucks and its relevancy to the larger labor movement:

Worker Organizing at Starbucks

Saturday Feb. 21st, 4pm , Northstar Center, Lansing

Erik Forman: Starbucks Worker Union Member – Minnesota

Cole Dorsey: Starbucks Worker Union Member – Grand Rapids, MI

Forman. After working at the Mall of America 1 Starbucks in Bloomington, MN for over two years, Erik Forman was illegally fired for union activity in July 2008. His coworkers subsequently declared their membership in the Starbucks Workers Union, a campaign of the Industrial Workers of the World, making their store the first union shop in the Mall of America, and the first union Starbucks in Minnesota. Due to a campaign of direct action, media advocacy, and a legal filing, Forman was reinstated to his position over Labor Day Weekend. The IWW campaign at Starbucks continues to gain momentum, as workers unite to build power at the corporate chains in Minneapolis and across the world. Forman is also a member of the Workers Solidarity Alliance.

Dorsey. Baristas at the Wealthy St. Starbucks in East Grand Rapids, Michigan announced their membership in the IWW Starbucks Workers Union on the union’s third anniversary in March 2007. Starbucks waged a relentless union-busting campaign that culminated in the illegal firing of IWW organizer Cole Dorsey on June 6, 2008. In response to union organizing Starbucks installed a 4-camera surveillance system to monitor barista’s every move, gave less in raises to union members, and interrogated baristas every time. The NRLB and the Michigan OSHA both concluded that Cole was wrongfully terminated and should be re-instated with back pay. Starbucks appealed both decisions. The MI-OSHA trial is set to begin March 23 in Lansing.

Come to a presentation and discussion of these workers campaigns!

Hosted by the Northstar Center and Solidarity & Defense

Starbucks Settles Charges, Union Refuses to Sign


An article published by the Bureau of National Affairs reports that Starbucks is happy about the results of a settlement reached with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) earlier this month over the firing of a union barista fired in East Grand Rapids.

According to the article, Starbucks issued a statement saying, “We feel vindicated as the agreement does not require reinstatement of or back pay to a partner whose termination we believe was appropriate.”

The settlement was reached a day before a scheduled trial in the case. Under the terms of the settlement, Starbucks will expunge the record of termination from the employee’s personnel file and will post a notice for 60 days at the East Grand Rapids store outlining employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Starbucks is not required to reinstate Dorsey or issue back pay. While the settlement did not allow Starbucks to deny wrongdoing, it also is not an admission of guilt.

The Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union did not sign-on to the settlement, saying that it prefers open trials and arguing that the fired union organizer was not award the remedies he deserves.

The NLRB approved the settlement without the Union signing on. The union has no plans to appeal the matter.

NLRB Lets Starbucks Settle Rather than Face Trial

We went down yesterday morning to the scheduled National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) trial over the firing of a member of the Starbucks Workers Union at the East Grand Rapids Starbucks to find that the company settled instead of going to trial.

Here’s the statement that was read to the media by the Union:

Faced with the prospect of losing another trial in front of the National Labor Relations Board the Regional Director has agreed to let Starbucks settle the charges against them and forego the trial that was to begin today. The union is upset that the Board is agreeing to accept another Starbucks settlement in Grand Rapids instead of holding them accountable in open court. If this most recent settlement is approved it will be 3rd one allowed by the board in Grand Rapids. With the signing of each settlement Starbucks has said they would end their anti-union intimidation and each time it has continued unabated. We can be sure it will continue which is why union membership is so vital.

Had the trial gone on here today in Grand Rapids we would have detailed the same type of union busting activity that Starbucks was found guilty of a couple weeks ago in New York. Internal communications would have been admitted into evidence showing upper management discussions about union organizing in Grand Rapids and speculation about barista’s union sympathies. The same type of surveillance and monitoring that was going on in New York. Also, Starbucks selectively enforced the attendance policy, scheduled baristas based on their union sympathies, and gave me less in raises because of my union affiliation. Based on the evidence that would have been presented its unbelievable that Howard Schultz doesn’t have knowledge of the huge anti-union operation in place at Starbucks. Its possible hes directing the whole operation.

On July 5th of last year there was a Global Day of Action against Starbucks called by the Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union and the Seville (Spain) CNT. The Day of Action was called after Monica was fired from a Starbucks in Seville and I was fired here in Grand Rapids. Over 200 Starbucks were picketed in over 80 cities in 20 countries. We have a message from the CNT with an update of Monica’s situation.

“In Sevilla (Spain), the CNT has forced Starbucks to recognise the unfairness of the dissmissal of our organizer Monica. The company compensated the worker with a severance of 45 days per year as the Spanish labor laws mandates. After the global day of action, groups of workers have gotten in touch with CNT in order to join the union and organize within Starbucks. From the Local Federation of Sevilla of CNT we send our greetings to Cole Dorsey and other members of the SWU. The CNT and the IWA will respond to all the international calls for solidarity against Starbucks or other multinational coporations. We will not allow the anti-union policy of such corporations.”

There is still a MIOSHA determination that has to be resolved. MIOSHA also concluded that Starbucks wrongfully terminated me. A date will be set for a trial on those charges so we may still get our day in court.

The important lesson of this process has been how important my union membership is. Had I not been a union member and Starbucks illegally fired me I would have just been fired. I happily pay my union dues every month because I know the power I have as a union member can’t be produced on my own. The strength of solidarity that we have in the Starbucks Workers Union has produced positive results in every city that Starbucks has discriminated against IWW members. That is why virtually every day baristas join the Starbucks Workers Union. As Starbucks cuts labor hours for baristas nationally the only way we can combat the growing assault on our jobs is the collective direct action through the union. The economy is sinking because of corporate wrongdoing and the only way we will stop the trend and reverse the tide is through our solidarity on the job.

We have another union victory and there will be many more in the future!

Court Hearing for Fired Starbucks Barista

A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing will take place this week to discuss the firing of a unionized barista at Starbucks.

The Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union is circulating the following announcement about an important trial regarding the firing of a Starbucks Union organizer here in Grand Rapids:





A trial against Starbucks at the National Labor Relations Board over the wrongful termination of an IWW barista. The proceedings are open to the public.


Starbucks baristas, supporters from the IWW, the community, and Starbucks management officials.

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union will be represented by attorney Rodger Webb of Webb, Englehardt, and Fernandes.

Starbucks will be represented by David Khorey and Kelly Stoppels of Varnum, Riddering, Schmidt, and Howlett.

The NLRB attorney on the case is Brad Howell. Why:

Starbucks’ is preparing to fight its second trial against Unfair Labor Practices. Last week, in an 88 page decision, an administrative law judge found, among other things, that Starbucks maintained multiple policies which interfered with workers’ right to communicate about the union and about working conditions; terminated three workers in retaliation for union activity; and repeatedly discriminated against union supporters.

After an investigation triggered by charges from the IWW in Grand Rapids, the Labor Board hit Starbucks with a complaint alleging the illegal termination of an employee for union activity.The barista firing at issue in the case resulted in solidarity actions from around the world. Now Starbucks will have to answer for its illegal acts in open court, again!

Despite the fierce anti-union campaign by the world’s largest fast-food coffee outlet, baristas around the country continue to join the IWW Starbucks Workers Union to pressure the company on issues of concern including insecure work hours, poverty wages, and unaffordable health care.

Background on the complaint for which Starbucks will stand trial: “Starbucks faces another NLRB complaint”, by Lauren Shepherd for the Associated Press, available online

When: Starting Wednesday, January 7th at 10amThursday, January 8th 10am(possibly) Friday, January 9th 10am

Where: NLRB Region 7 at the Federal Building. David L. Basso Hearing Room, 82 Ionia 3rd Floor in Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

Press Conference 930am January 7th in front of 82 Ionia

Starbucks Found Guilty of Union Busting

A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling in New York City says that Starbucks engaged in a broad-based union busting campaign aimed at stifling the activities of the Starbucks Workers Union. The ruling says that three fired baristas must be reinstated and give back pay.


In a major case in New York City, Starbucks has been found guilty of union-busting. In an 88-page ruling, a judge has found that Starbucks maintained multiple policies which interfered with workers’ right to communicate about the union and about working conditions; terminated three workers in retaliation for union activity; and repeatedly discriminated against union supporters.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge in the case has ordered Starbucks to reinstate the three fired baristas and give them back pay for lost wages. Additionally, the company must pledge to end discriminatory treatment towards workers that support the union.

Starbucks has said that it plans to appeal the ruling.

Starbucks faces a similar trial next month in Grand Rapids. The company will appear before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on January 7 over charges that it illegally fired union barista Cole Dorsey for organizing a union at the Starbucks restaurant in East Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Starbucks Union Mentioned in National Media

The organizing efforts of the Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union have made the national press, with organizer Cole Dorsey being cited in a recent article in In These Times.


A new article titled “Union-Made Lattes” in the progressive magazine In These Times mentions Grand Rapids Starbucks Union organizer Cole Dorsey and the ongoing NLRB case against Starbucks in Grand Rapids. The article examines the formation of the Union and allegations of union busting by Starbucks.

An excerpt from the article discussing Dorsey and organizing in Grand Rapids:

More recently, in Grand Rapids, Mich., the NLRB filed a complaint against Starbucks, charging that the company illegally fired barista Cole Dorsey for union activity.

According to Dorsey, the SWU began organizing in Grand Rapids in 2006. But baristas who were interested in joining the union became concerned that repercussions might be taken against them for organizing publicly.

“We were attempting to organize a union election, a tactic we thought could be effective here in Michigan, but we believe management found out,” says Dorsey.

Those baristas collectively decided that Dorsey — at least initially — should be the union’s public face while others remained underground.

Dorsey was fired on June 6 during the union election campaign. Starbucks’ Darrow says Dorsey — who had worked at Starbucks for two years and had won employee awards — was fired for being tardy after receiving a final warning. As in other cases, Starbucks denies allegations of union-busting activity.

“The backbone of my case is that I was fired for less than what other employees have done,” Dorsey says.

In a response to Dorsey’s NLRB complaint, Starbucks’ attorneys reiterated the official reason he was fired, and added that he was a “salt,” suggesting that Dorsey had no interest in working at Starbucks and was there only to organize.

“I guess it is true in a sense because I am organizing people, but what they fail to understand is that I also depend on the income from my job, and they took that away from me,” Dorsey says. “We never wanted this to be a contentious issue. We want a union so that we can improve workplace conditions. Starbucks has made the situation contentious.”

Read “Union-Made Lattes.”