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Starbucks First “Employees”

During the past few days Starbucks has been in the headlines. This time, about the threat of being sued for offering high-fat products…

But there is a back-story that isn’t being reported… I know Starbucks won’t talk about it… and it’s upsetting to watch things take place without all sides of the story being told…

starbucks_logo.jpgI was a Starbucks partner for over nine years. While the people who work for Starbucks aren’t perfect – and can make mistakes – the company is full of people who want to do the best for customers and the community. The attitude is, “let me know a mistake has been made and I will fix it.” I loved working at Starbucks. I would recommend it to anyone who is hard-working and believes in the company values.

The proud term for those employed at Starbucks is ‘partner.’ Choosing the term ‘partner’ was a conscious decision made early by the founders of the company. Together we were partners… building community, the company, and in serving the customer.

But now, Starbucks has its first employees. These are folks who don’t deserve the title of ‘partner.’

There are a few folks, working for Starbucks in New York City, who have been trying to form a worker’s union as part of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). They are working under the guise of providing better working conditions for their fellow Starbucks partners. They have a few members of their organization working at a few different Starbucks locations.

News reports portray this as “stores being unionized” (i.e. employees represented through the union with a bargaining agreement versus as individuals). That is incorrect. Starbucks does not have stores in NYC represented by a union. This message is marketing spin to give the illusion that the group is bigger than they actually are. (In fact, the pro-union folks are targeting stores with smaller staffs and fewer employees in hopes that it will be easier to obtain a majority vote to gain a collective bargaining agreement).

It seems, with the unionization process going slow, the group has decided to gain media attention by copycatting the ‘SuperSize Me” trend. Now they’re supporting a potential lawsuit against Starbucks because Starbucks is allegedly making employees and customers fat.

According to an recent article by Reuters, the union contends that Starbucks staff gain weight when they work at the chain because they are offered unlimited beverages and leftover pastries for free during their shifts.

I think the headline should read “Pro-Union Employees Steal Food From Homeless.” Leftover pastries are supposed to go to local soup kitchens and homeless shelters…Why are they eating them?

To warn unsuspecting customers of nutritional hazards, they are also asking Starbucks to list nutrition information – which is currently available online and in store brochures – on its menu boards.

The pro-union group states that they are about: a) increased pay and raises, b) guaranteed hours with the option of full-time status, c) an end to understaffing, and d) a healthier and safer workplace… These are great motives. If I felt that Starbucks employees were being exploited – I would join the union myself. There is a time and a place for unions.

Starbucks is a great place to work. Starbucks has been an industry leader in providing: comprehensive benefits for part-time employees, stock options, benefits for same-sex couples, and more… Starbucks managers even make special arrangements if they notice that a partner is going below the minimum number of hours-per-quarter required to maintain benefits. Starbucks is a company based on people-serving-people.

Additionally, Starbucks has a very open culture with accessible leadership. If you have a problem, you can contact Howard Schultz or Jim Donald (the CEO) directly. If there was something happening that “wasn’t right” they would fix it as quickly as humanly possible. So I’m not sure what true additional benefit a union could provide that partners don’t already have… This is neither the right time nor the right place for a union.

Unionization of Starbucks by this group is more about the greed of a savvy sales person with dollar-signs in their eyes than it is about truly helping the workers. Someone has calculated how much money could be made by collecting $35+ per month union dues from each Starbucks partner. The union is a money-making business with their own marketing campaigns, materials, and sales force. They are armed with the strategy of convincing partners how much better life could be if represented by their union.

Hopefully, in addition to pro-union messages, partners have access to real and factual information (from both sides). Union propaganda succeeded a few years ago in Canada. With a union’s promise of a “better tomorrow”, some Starbucks partners voted in a union in Canada. The union didn’t and couldn’t deliver beyond what Starbucks was already providing. Now the partners are stuck with a collective bargaining agreement they don’t want or need. Now they’re stuck paying union dues that do not provide additional benefit. But the union is making money.

Back to my original point… if I believed that these folks were being good partners to their co-workers, I’d call them that… Considering what they’re doing and what I believe are their true motives – they’re merely employees.

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