County Commission stands by Starbucks drivethrough on narrow island in busy intersection
Reno Gazette-Journal

Reno residents protest possible Starbucks
Reno Gazette-Journal

I love the aroma of a union in the morning — Order a taste from a unionized American coffee company

The Wobblies are back, organizing both short haul truckers and Starbucks to help the drivers stay awake
Sacramento News & Review



Starbucks scores big bucks from Nevada school kids

Starbucks VP praises Nevada business climate
Reno Gazette-Journal 3-22-2003

Starbucks to increase production over next 5years
Carson City Nevada Appeal 3-8-2003

$40 million Starbucks roasting plant opens
Carson City Nevada Appeal 1-6-2003

Starbucks plant construction rapidly proceeding

Starbucks, General Motors & Sen. McCarran's armpit mirage
Corporate welfare special report

Starbucks expands planned Nevada roasting facility

OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (Sydney, 9-28-2000) — During the Summer Olympic Games, Australian union members participated in an international day of protest in support of workers at the Kent, Washington, USA, Starbucks roasting plant.

Carson City, Nev. (Nov. 16, 2001) — Carson City Nevada Appeal managing editor Barry Smith today humorously and heavily criticized the Nevada Commission on Economic Development for its conduct in granting a $2 million tax break to Starbucks.

"Vote first, take public comment second. Probably many public boards have considered the idea, but it took the state Economic Development Commission to actually put it in practice," Smith writes.

"What a time-saver! What a refinement of the democratic process! What a step toward more efficient government!" Read the full story.

(Dec. 4, 2001) — Retired Carson City reporter Thomas Wilson hurls another lampoon harpoon.

Las Vegas, Nev. (Nov. 14, 2001) — Nevada Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt, R-Las Vegas, refused to allow a discouraging word and railroaded a $2 million Starbucks tax subsidy through the state corporate welfare commission which she chairs. Northern Nevada construction union members attempted to testify before the Nevada Commission on Economic Development but Hunt would not allow it.

Much of the $2 million will come directly from the school children of Douglas County. Labor leaders are reviewing legal options. Click here to read the Reno Gazette-Journal story. Click here to access the Carson City Nevada Appeal's report.

Starbucks asserts it will pay workers an average hourly wage of $16.38 to qualify for the subsidies but has refused to provide public documentation. Most workers at its Kent, Wash., roasting plant near Seattle make far less. Thanks to this tax hearing, we now know that the same will be true in Nevada.

"Starbucks has a history of unfair treatment of its workers," stated Richard "Skip" Daly, business manager of Laborers' International Union Local 169/AFL-CIO.

"Now that they are expanding beyond retail into construction and manufacturing in this region, the Building and Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada has voted to inform our members and the general public," Daly added.

Considers Starbucks tax breaks

November 14, 2001, 9:30 a.m. PST
Video Conference
Sawyer Office Building, Room 4412 B&C
555 E. Washington Avenue, Las Vegas, NV
Legislative Building, Room 2144, 401 S. Carson Street, Carson City, NV
Listen/View Meeting on the Nevada Legislature's Website

Commission stonewalls information requests from Nevada workers

From the defensive tenor of a story in the Nov. 13 Reno Gazette-Journal, it is apparent that labor pressure has already had an impact. We made state officials aware of past incidents in which high executive salaries were used to pad tax break applications, while most workers got very low pay. Nevada Commission on Economic Development spokesman Timothy Rubald told the Gazette-Journal that the Starbucks roasting plant manager's salary has not been included in the average hourly wage computation justifying the tax abatements. However, NCED refused any information to organized labor about Starbucks wages, citing company invocation of Nevada corporate welfare secrecy statutes. [NRS 231.069; NRS 241.020(4)]

When the Nevada Legislature passed these incentives, lawmakers were very clear about not wanting to create more low wage jobs. In fact, NCED Business Development Director Rubald authored the definitive study about the negative impacts of low wage jobs on Nevada and this website has been its only publisher for more than two years.

State officials have hidden behind secrecy statutes in denying almost every union request for information. We were told we could only have a three -page application and a two-page staff-written summary. We asked for the addenda noted thereon as attached but not included. One of those documents concerns the personal property tax abatement. The application states "see attached impact model" for that information.

That "impact model" was not attached to the material we received. According to Gazette-Journal reporter Tim Anderson, that tax break amounts to a mere $590,000 — bringing Starbucks' tax freebies to almost $2 million
, all put together behind closed doors.

RIGHT TO WORK FOR LESS IN NEVADA: View the commission's web page containing an anti-union sales pitch.

Make Starbucks keep its promise

What Starbucks wants you to believe: "We want to be in communities we like and communities that will welcome us," said Rick Arthur, Starbucks vice president of operations. "We provide high-quality, good paying jobs." (Associated Press in the 4-23-2001 Las Vegas Sun)

What Starbucks is actually doing

  • Starbucks has said it will pay the lowest possible construction wages at its new Douglas County, Nev., roasting plant. Wages falling below area standards drag down every worker's paycheck.
  • Starbucks' new plant will pump 100 tons of new pollutants into Nevada/Lake Tahoe air.
  • Starbucks just scored almost $2 million in corporate welfare tax-cut freebies which must be made up by Nevada taxpayers to subsidize community services which Starbucks will require (such as police and fire protection, roads and schools).
  • Starbucks' out-of-state general contractor was fined $56,000 by the Nevada State Contractors Board for illegally operating without a license.
  • For more than two years, Starbucks stonewalled on signing a contract with workers at its Kent, Washington, roasting facility despite employees winning two majority votes in federally supervised elections. (Kent, Wash., maintenance mechanics and technicians ratified a first contract on October 27, 2001. For more information, contact Rene Jankiewicz at International Union of Operating Engineers Local 286.)
  • Workers have filed local, state and federal charges of intimidation, coercion, discrimination, health & safety violations and physical assault regarding the Washington state roasting plant.
  • Starbucks Washington managers have filed suit alleging that they were forced to work unpaid overtime.

For more information, please contact
Building & Construction Trades Council of Northern Nevada/AFL-CIO
1819 Hymer Avenue * Sparks, NV 89431 * (775) 355-9200

Tell Starbucks what you think
Contact Thomas Pasinger, Nevada Roasting Plant Manager
2401 Utah Ave. South, Mail stop S - SC5
Seattle, WA 98134
Phone (206) 318-5036, Fax (206) 318-2344

Audrey Lincoff, Director of Public Affairs
2401 Utah Ave. South, Mail stop S - CM 1
Seattle, WA 98134
Phone (206) 318-5013, Fax (206) 318-2083

E-mail Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz

Attention Starbucks — Ninth Circuit Court rules for picketers and protestors in landmark case
All western states bound — Union demonstrators must be allowed access to public areas
Anyone wanting a copy of the decision, request it here
and we'll e-mail it to you in pdf format.
Reno Gazette-Journal editorially praises decision

Handbill information distributed by union members in Washington State

Starbucks Consumer Alert!
Starbucks stores cited for 422 health code violations

According to the King County Department of Health, since January 1, 2000, Starbucks stores in King County have been cited for 422 violations of the health code, including:

  • 104 times for wiping cloths not being clean, moistened with an approved sanitizer, or restricted in use 54 times for inadequate handwashing facilities
  • 36 times for lacking accurate thermometers in refrigerators to make sure that food is refrigerated at the proper temperature
  • 27 times for not storing potentially hazardous food at the correct temperature

26 times for food workers lacking proper permits other violations include inadequate or unclean toilet facilities, incorrect sanitizing or dishwashing, food not protected from contamination and ineffective pest control measures

Take action against Starbucks health code violations

  • Fill out a Starbucks customer comment card.
  • Ask the manager if this Starbucks has health code violations.
  • E-mail Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz and public affairs director Audrey Lincoff.
  • Call Starbucks Customer Relations at (206) 447-1575 extension 82900.
  • Let Starbucks know your opinion of Starbucks stores health code violations.

For more information, please contact
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 286
(253) 351-9095

IUOE Local 286 is involved in a labor dispute with Starbucks. We have no dispute with any other employer at this location. We are not asking any individual to cease performing any services, or to refuse to pick up, deliver, handle or transport any goods.

Starbucks Grinding Labor
By Doug Nielson

"Starbucks is a lot like working for Disney. Disneyland may be 'the greatest place on earth' to visit, but I was in [IUOE] local 501 in Los Angeles, and Disneyland wasn't the greatest place on earth to work."

— Jeff Alexander, five-year veteran of Starbucks' roasting plant in Kent, Wash.

Back in 1999 when Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO, heard that the maintenance workers in one of his two US roasting plants were likely to vote in a union, he drove the 15 miles from corporate headquarters to Kent, Washington, for a private meeting with the 22 employees. He didn't offer to remedy any of the workers' complaints, but he did give reassurances of his blue collar roots and offered stories from his book, "Pour Your Heart Into It."


Newspaper editor creams state officials for Starbucks tax break

Starbucks scores
$2 million worth of corporate welfare tax subsidies. Critics not allowed to testify.

Union leader questions Starbucks wages for Nevada tax break

Starbucks closes escrow on property for northern Nevada roasting plant

Starbucks anti-union campaign hits new low — Union supporter Don Goodson stranded Sept. 11 but still disciplined for missing work

Seattle Starbucks managers sue for payment of alleged unpaid overtime

Gardnerville, Nev., resident blasts Starbucks and state regulators over new roasting plant's huge air quality impacts

Washington State Labor Council resolution supporting Kent workers

Washington State Labor Council resolution decrying third world wages and working conditions for coffee plantation workers

Group Sues Starbucks, Says Ephedrine Found in Tea

Apparently, Howard's father broke his leg while working as a diaper truck driver and since he didn't have any health insurance (with the presumably non-union diaper company), Howard's family suffered. Howard reiterated, as he has done many times before, that because of his early experiences with poverty, even his part-time workers would always have health insurance. He didn't offer to reverse the recently instituted health benefit cuts or remedy the company's arbitrary and unfair wage and promotion practices.

Most importantly, he didn't address the workers' demand for a fixed benefit retirement plan.

Jeff Alexander remembers looking out the window after the talk and wondering what percentage of Howard's $14 million salary he had spent on the brand new Jaguar parked near his own aging Suburban.The way Schultz arrived at the decision to begin providing health benefits to part-time employees in May 1991 is instructive of Starbucks overall business strategy. Schultz realized that with recruitment and training costs running at $3,000 for each new employee (Starbucks gives new employees 24 hours of training in the fine points of coffee beans, brewing and customer service), he could save a lot of money by paying half that amount per employee for healthcare insurance.

Two-thirds of his work force were part-time workers. The result of this policy was, as Thompson and Strickland point out in their book Strategic Management, "Whereas most national retailers and fast-food chains had turnover rates for store employees ranging from 150 to 400 percent a year, the turnover rates for Starbucks' baristas ran about 65 percent." Starbucks gained a lot of praise for offering healthcare benefits to workers working more than 20 hours a week, including even an invitation to the Clinton White House in April 1994. Health Insurance for part-timers is so rare in this country that it merits a commendation for business ethics from a US president.

The health insurance policy had the additional benefit of allowing Starbucks to recruit a more educated class of barista. Without the largely minority and immigrant employees of, say, a McDonalds, Shultz was able to maintain the upscale white middle class ambiance he preferred for his gourmet coffee stores. After the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) won a union recognition vote on Nov. 14, 1999, Starbucks launched a vigorous anti-union campaign. Surveillance cameras were installed in the lunchroom and at the entrances to the plant. Union supporters have been suspended without pay for such petty offenses as swearing. They have had unsubstantiated safety complaints filed against them and have been denied promotions.

Maintenance workers who quit have not been replaced, so that the original 22 are now down to 18. Don Goodson's case provides a good example of the current atmosphere in the plant. He was hired (in early 2001) on the recommendation of a worker who had been persuaded to file for a union decertification vote. Management focused their attention on Don as the key person needed to vote the union out. But Don's mind was made up in favor of the union after management told him the union was proposing a retirement plan.

"Workers need a pension plan. Right now we're just gambling on the stock market to take care of us in our old age. That's not a risk Id like to take," he reasoned. After the decertification failed, Starbucks charged Don with making derogatory remarks to another worker. Despite witness accounts to the contrary, he was moved to the graveyard shift.

Waiting for a contract

After voting in the union nearly two years ago and going through many negotiation sessions, the maintenance workers at the Kent roasting facility are still waiting for a comprehensive contract offer from Starbucks. The company has offered to give a retirement benefit in exchange for a wage freeze, no improvement in health benefit costs, revoking the "Bean Stock" (Starbucks' term for stock in the company which employees receive every year equivalent to 14% of their salary), revoking the Stock Incentive Plan (SIP) and other miscellaneous small perks, but has refused to put a dollar figure on the exchange. (Editors' note: Starbucks' Kent, Wash., maintenance mechanics and technicians ratified a first contract on Saturday October 27, 2001. For more information, contact Rene Jankiewicz at International Union of Operating Engineers Local 286.)

The union is asking for a standardized wage scale and promotion practices based on experience and demonstrable skills. Right now, for example, wages in the department range from $15 to $24 per /hour, with new hires often brought in near the top of the wage scale because of a current high market demand for their skills. People who have beenwith the company for years and are highly skilled and knowledgeable about the plant are often denied opportunities for advancement. Each worker is forced to negotiate individually with a constant stream of new supervisors and managers who seem like mere trainees for higher corporate positions in Starbucks' rapidly expanding empire.

The company reported on July 26 that it is on track to open 1,200 new stores in fiscal year 2001, with 825 in the United States and 375 abroad. Revenue climbed 20% in the third quarter compared to last year and is expected to climb an additional 25% in the 2002 fiscal year.

Having your Bean Stock and eating it, too

After five years of working at Starbucks, Jeff Alexander is looking forward to being able to cash out his first installment of "bean stock." He may get $5,000 but would prefer to have money in a retirement fund. It is not widely known that employees don't actually get to own this bean stock. They are only allowed to hold it for a minimum of five years. At the time of redemption, they are allowed to keep any difference between the original price and the current price.

It could be argued that this benefit actually costs Starbucks nothing since the workers will only get a benefit if the stock price goes up. If the price stays even or goes down they will not receive a dime. This is an even more risky plan for saving than common 401K retirement plans.

The union would normally expect a $2.50 per hour employer contribution to its pension fund but is willing to settle for $0.50 per hour from Starbucks just to get an initial contract. Many of the employees, particularly the 180 in the packaging and distribution departments who earn from $9 to $11 an hour, are forced to redeem as much Bean Stock as they can every year just to meet their families' basic necessities.

For those who can afford it, Starbucks also offers the SIP (Stock Incentive Plan), which allows employees to purchase Starbucks stock at a 15% discount if they hold on to it for at least two years.

Union busting in a union town

IUOE members are proud of one small victory achieved in the process of trying to negotiate a union contract. A cut in healthcare benefits sparked the current union drive in the first place. Consequently, early in negotiations, management suggested they might be willing to increase the company's share of health insurance premiums from 75% to 90%. In the end, this improvement was granted to the entire plant with the exception of unionized workers.

The attempt by Starbucks to torpedo support for the union among the technicians and mechanics in the maintenance department actually backfired and instead raised support for the union among the 180 lower-skilled workers in the packaging and distribution departments. These are primarily minority workers including immigrants from at least 7 different nations.

Many had been paying up to $160 a month for health insurance for their families. Seattle has traditionally been a union town and before Howard Schultz and his group of investors bought out Starbucks in 1987, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union had organized it. Schultz managed to get his coffee bars decertified within four months of taking over, but it took another five years to de-unionize the roasting and warehouse facilities.

After breaking the UFCW baristas local, Schultz began to see the wisdom of one of their key demands: healthcare benefits for part-time workers. As Jan Pelroy, IUOE local 286 business manager explains, "Schultz is a type of person who goes through life having epiphanies."

The union is hoping to induce a new epiphany in Howard, or simply modify an old one. Not only should Howard's father have had health care insurance but he also should have had a pension. It may be hard for Howard to understand this, but not everyone can depend on a rich son like himself to support them in their old age.

This time around, the maintenance workers are up against a powerful multinational corporation with deep pockets, the best lawyers money can buy and a local media which prefers to write stories about such things as Howard's recent fulfillment of a boyish fantasy with his purchase of the Seattle Supersonics basketball team. (No word yet on Howard's attitude toward the NBA basketball players union).

Putting on the dog

Jeff sums up management's strategy, as one of stall and persecute.

"If they can get rid of us by decertification, then the story they will tell is not that they squashed the union but that the workers didn't want a union. The 'partners' [Starbucks' term for employees] didn't feel the need," he added.

Howard Schultz is fond of referring to Starbucks as "a company with a soul."

Considering its union-busting history, Jeff sees it as the soul of "a dog that's killed chickens. Once they've killed, it s hard to stop them from doing it again."

The stakes are high for the 18 workers involved in this battle. They have received considerable outside support from sources such as Jobs With Justice, Global Exchange, the Washington State Labor Council, the King County Labor Council, the Organic Consumers Association (who are fighting Starbucks' use of Bovine Growth Hormone in their milk), and the Canadian Auto Workers Union (which has organized 12 Starbucks outlets in British Columbia).

They have even received support from the Australian Public Finance Workers Union who demonstrated against Starbucks at the Australian Olympics. (See photo at the top of this page.)

Starbucks and its shady business practices are spreading like a cancer across the globe. There may not be much we can do about that, but our movement which was born here in Seattle can make sure that wherever Starbucks goes, unions will follow with a different kind of globalization in mind — a globalization of resistance and dignity.

If Kent's workers win, we all win.

Originally published in Left Turn Magazine. Reproduced by permission of the author.

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