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The Starbucks Union pulled off a minor coup late Wednesday. They got one brave worker a microphone, and let him loose on the CEO.

In a two minute conversation, the worker raised a number of issues:

1. Clopening: Closing one night at 9:00 PM, and opening at 4:00 AM the next morning. That's a 7-hour break in between shifts, meaning that it is not possible for the worker to get a full nights sleep before standing on their feet all day for a second time.

2. Low pay. That a worker who has worked at Starbucks for two years cannot afford their own apartment, but must share housing with two or three other roomates. That workers spend their first ten-minute break video-chatting with their families because they have to work two jobs, and as a result, cannot actually see their families. A little known fact about Starbucks is that 100% of their baristas are part-time workers. This gets Starbucks off the hook as far as benefits are concerned, because while many of their workers qualify for benefits, few of them have the funds to actually take advantage of the benefits they're offered. As a result, Starbucks as a corporation isn't required to pay their share of the benefits that the workers are entitled to, but cannot afford.

3. Poor treatment of workers and intimidation. The worker recounts women being told that they would be fired if they became pregnant and criticized for a drop in productivity while pregnant. The worker begins to comment on a failure of the company to respect the religious needs of its Muslim workers, when he is cut off.

Howard Shultz, Starbucks' CEO, parries all of his questions. He completely ignores the problems with "Clopening." He ignores the intimidation of women on staff, and instead of dealing with any of the issues raised by the worker, decides that the entire issue is about one individual, not general problems with Starbucks as a whole.

The most obscene moment in this entire video is that moment, when the CEO attempts to imply that these are the words of a single, disgruntled worker.

Sam Dukore is not upset because he was spurned for a promotion.

He's upset because they promised to make him a full-time employee, and then didn't. And he's not alone. A great many workers at Starbucks have a problem with how they're being treated, and that's why Union Organizing at Starbucks is ongoing.

Video and Transcript follow.


Thank you for, you know, inviting me out here to talk about the evolution of the partner experience. I appreciate it. I’ve been working at Starbucks for about two and a half years and you know this company has been successful due to hard workers like us and we’re proud to work hard every day. But the thing is is that there are also problems and there are sacrifices that we have to make.

There are those of us, you know, who clope and we close one night and open the next day. Right? You know? And I mean like myself I was, you know, promised a promotion to shift supervisor at the end of last year and I’m still waiting. It devastates me to still be making, you know, less than ten dollars an hour and even working close to 40hrs a week it’s hard for me to find a place where I can rent that I’m not sharing, like, a room with three other people. I see my fellow partners every day. I see hard Starbucks workers. You know, they.. They will spend their first ten video chatting with their family because they need a second job and that keeps them away.

This company, it made 1.7 billion last year, it netted 1.7 billion last year and you’re claiming, you claim in your book ‘Onward’ that you do not want to put profit before social conscience. And I I still see things like this and things like, pregnant partners who are chastised for their decreased performance and people told that if they get pregnant that they would get fired, that they would lose their job. And I see Muslim partners, Muslim co-workers-

Shultz: Is there a specific question?
The specific question that I want you to answer is: When are you going to solve these problems of low wages, understaffing, scheduling, and recognize the Starbucks worker’s union?
Shultz: I want you all to understand, I do think it takes courage to say what you've said, I suspect that most people don't agree with it, but having said that I respect the question.

We provide benefits that almost no one in our sector provides.

I can't understand specifically what your situation is. You alluded to the fact that you were promised a district manager job and you didn't get it. I don't know the situation there, but I suspect there is a story there of some kind between your manager and District Manager, and I'd be happy to follow up in a more private setting.

We've been in business for 40 years, and we're a non-union company, because we've done, for the most part, all the right things.

[Later]

So, before Howard Shultz cut me off I was gonna say that my Muslim co-workers were belittled for trying to keep the Ramadan fast and prevented from taking the days off that they needed. I think that Mr. Shultz really believes what he’s saying but as any of us who are living it and working day to day the reality on the ground is very different. He says that we can’t wait on Washington and we agree on that point but I say that we also can’t wait on Mr. Shultz.  What he’s trying to do is pass the buck off the district managers for problems that he can solve. He was saying that during the shutdown that politicians need to come together so why can’t working folks?

On a final note, I was contacted by a union organizer who wanted to know if I'd write about a story where a worker criticized his CEO on camera.

"Sure," I answered. "Which Company?"

"A major one."

The workers involved with this action were so nervous that they wouldn't even tell me which company they worked for until the Video had been made.

The worker I spoke to was not Sam Dukore, the man in this video. I've never spoken to Sam Dukore, specifically, but I can attest to the fact that this was not an action by a single individual, but an organized action by union members.

Those members are scared that they'll be fired, and that they will lose what little income they currently have. And that is why the other workers involved in this action are not being named.

Sam is not alone. There are a great many Baristas who support him and who want and need a union. Those Baristas work part time, for low wages, and are offered benefits they cannot possibly afford. Even Starbuck's Tuition Assistance program is a sham, set up to make the company money, and make its customers feel better about the coffee they buy.

The Starbucks Union has a petition on their website which asks the CEO to address these issues. Please sign it.

Originally posted to ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement on Thu Jun 19, 2014 at 01:25 AM PDT.

Also republished by Hellraisers Journal and In Support of Labor and Unions.

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