The following update describes recent organizing efforts by the Grand Rapids Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union to organize workers at Starbucks:
In March 2008 the Grand Rapids GMB of the IWW and the Grand Rapids Starbucks Workers Union announced the beginning of a ‘Spring Offensive against Starbucks (SOS)’ to increase local pressure on the coffee giant on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Starbucks Union founding, and in support of the new Unfair Labor Practice charges filed against Starbucks in Grand Rapids. Wobblies described S.O.S. as a ‘multi-pronged’ offensive where union members: would increase engagement with costumers about Starbucks’ union-busting and ‘fair tade’ policies, increase contact with local baristas about the demands of the SWU as well as invitations to social gatherings, and an increase in publicity and community exposure.
IWW baristas honored MayDay 2008 with a press conference and celebration. At 4:00pm GMB members Jackie Wood and Chuck Neller posted in front of the Starbucks store in East Grand Rapids, with the branch banner, in preparation of the press conference. Union baristas then addressed the media with statements expressing solidarity with others struggling on the job, and announced a renewed commitment to fight Starbucks repression.
At the press conference, barista and organizer Cole Dorsey mentioned fellow worker, Monica, who is a member of the CNT and was unlawfully fired by Starbucks in Seville, Spain on April 24th. Previously, in a show of solidarity the CNT of Seville published the situation faced by IWW baristas in Grand Rapids, along with links to starbucksunion.org and iww.org, on the group’s home webpage.
In the spirit of MayDay, the Grand Rapids Starbucks Union paid for the first beer of every barista that attended the MayDay celebration whether they were members of the IWW or employees of Starbucks, or not. The banner was displayed at the celebration along with “Together We Win: The Fight to Organize Starbucks” documentaries, an assortment of different flyers that are being used in the local organizing drive, books on labor issues, information on MayDay, and of course, the IW. The Meanwhile was so pleased with the turnout of the event they’ve suggested another ‘IWW’ night, in the fall, where part of the sales would be donated to the Grand Rapids GMB.
On May 7, wobblies hosted a live, call-in, cable access show. IWW-TV on GRTV. The shows title: Starbucks Workers Union- For a Fair Trade Future. The show featured the Mayday press conference, Partners? I and II (which is documentation of the SWU delegation to Ethiopia), and an interview of a member of the local group F.A.I.R. (Fair Trade-Awareness Initiating Relationships) in preparation for World Fair Trade Day on May 10th. The SWU will be tabling at World Fair Trade Day.
May 21st will be another installment of IWW-TV The show will feature a news style format of local wobs delivering the day’s labor news. There will also be an interview of a member of the Bloom collective. The Bloom is an infoshop/lending library in Grand Rapids promoting radical social change.
The SOS has already brought positive publicity, an increased interest by local baristas, and more opportunities to network locally.
Contact the Grand Rapids GMB
General Distribution Workers Industrial Union 660
Starbucks Union Site