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SWU Releases the Internal Health Care Document Starbucks Doesn't Want You to See

One of the greatest achievements in the history of corporate public relations has been Starbucks' effort to mislead the American public about its health care plan. While Starbucks has been lauded again and again based on its misleading statements about employee health care, the company has consistently refused to reveal the pricing of the plan. Today the Starbucks Workers Union is making available the internal health care document that the company and its chief propagandist Howard Schultz don't want you to see because it reveals the high-cost of coverage.

Here's the real story about health care at Starbucks:

Starbucks finally admitted that it provides health insurance to just 42% of its workforce and that includes management. By contrast, Wal-Mart insures 47% of its workforce. That's right, the self-proclaimed leader of employee health care has a poorer record than Wal-Mart, a company notorious for the burden it places on taxpayers via uninsured workers.

There's two reasons why the majority of Starbucks employees either receive government health care for the poor, are uninsured, or are lucky enough to have insurance from another source:

1. Hours Eligibility To qualify to purchase health care from Starbucks, an employee must work 240 hours per quarter. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of workers at Starbucks are part-time with no guaranteed hours each week. In fact, 100% of Starbucks baristas, bussers, and shift supervisors (retail hourly workers) are part-time. Starbucks concedes that only 65% of its workforce gets the 240 hours necessary to purchase health care from the company.

2. Prohibitively Expensive Out-of-Pocket Costs If you're lucky enough to be one of the 65% of employees who gets 240 hours, you're then faced with exorbitant costs to purchase health care. Whether you pick a lower premium plan with a higher deductible or vice versa, paying for a plan is out of reach for the majority of employees. Making around $7 or $8 dollars per hour and only getting 25 or 30 hours of work each week, it's unreasonable to expect that barisas will be able to contend with high premiums, co-pays, deductibles, "payment percentages", and other out-of-pocket expenses. One of Starbucks' family health plans has a deductible of $3,000/year and an out of pocket maximum of $24,000/year!

Put the above two hurdles together and you get a health plan worse than Wal-Mart!

An interesting aspect of this story concerns the role of the mainstream media. How many times has a TV interviewer or newspaper reporter regurgitated the claim that Starbucks provides health care to all its employees who work 20 hours per week?

Next time a Starbucks official or media outlet makes a false claim about health care at the company, write a letter to the editor and set the record straight!
Fighting for Minimum Wage Rights

Hundreds rallied in the cold for hours to protest the illegal union-busting in Brooklyn

For many of the Latino and East Asian warehouse workers in North Brooklyn and Queens who keep the shelves and kitchens of New York City restaurants, grocery stores and delis stocked, getting by is a constant struggle. Customers are often culturally and economically removed from the warehouses’ largely immigrant workforce, while the management can be downright exploitative.
*sigh* the wobblies. that you would link to a wobbly site is very cool.

it always boggles my mind that unions are having a tough time right now. i have a friend from hs that was very anti union, saying they were all corrupt (i think he's since mellowed), but i think that's just a shortsighted view. many of the things we take for granted work wise had their origin in union action...
IWW WINS LABOR BOARD RULING - Workers reinstated at Amersino after being fired for joining union.

NY, NY, March 6, 2007 – In a big win for workers in Brooklyn and Queens, the National Labor Relations Board ordered that warehouse owner Henry Wang of Amersino Marketing Group, LLC reinstate Manuel Lopez and Juan Antonio Rodriguez, pay thousands of dollars in back wages, and cease and desist any and all illegal anti-union measures. On February 27, 2007, the Board found that Wang violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act by firing Lopez and Rodriguez, after they joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union, and by intimidating others who engaged in protected union activity.

“It’s clear that it was discrimination for trying to form a union,” said Rodriguez.

The IWW filed a grievance with the NLRB after five Amersino workers were fired for union activity in April 2006. In addition, seventeen workers at four other restaurant supply warehouses in Brooklyn and Queens were fired for joining the union. Further complaints allege that employers regularly violated minimum wage and overtime laws. Organizers with the IWW’s Food and Allied Workers Union, 460/640, described the Amersino ruling as a clear signal to employers that union busting efforts are a direct assault on the rights of workers, and vowed to keep up the fight.

The organizing drive at E-Z Supply/Sunrise Plus, Amersino, Top City, Giant Big Apple Beer and Handyfat Trading, Inc. has heated up in recent months. More than 200 union members and community activists from Make the Road By Walking marched through Brooklyn and Queens on February 19, 2007 and picketed three warehouses and a supermarket to protest unfair labor practices.

On March 10, 2007, the IWW plans to picket the E-Z Supply/Sunrise Plus warehouse at 48-01 Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens from 8:30 am to 10:30 am (near Grand Street stop on the L train). The U.S. Justice Department will hold a deposition of Sunrise Plus owner Dennis Ho on March 13, 2007 over charges that he illegally applied the Immigration Reform and Control Act to crush IWW union organizing at that workplace.

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is a rank and file union founded in 1905. The IWW Food and Allied Workers Union, 460/640, is organizing in the food industry to improve working conditions and win respect on the job. Members of the union include workers from Starbucks, restaurants, and warehouses.
IWW Hits Giant Big Apple with Daily Pickets

Members from the NYC Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) put up daily picket lines this past week in front of Giant Big Apple Beer Ltd, a beer and soda distributor in Woodside, Queens. Wobblies, workers, and supporters were out there every day starting Monday, March 26, through Saturday, from about 8:00 am until 2:00 pm. The pickets were held in response to the vandalism of union workers’ cars. The goal of the pickets was to hurt the company by preventing trucks from making deliveries to the company.

The pickets proved to be a useful tool against the company, as a number of trucks did not want to cross the picket line and thus did not make their deliveries. Tuesday was probably the most successful day of the picket, as three out of four trucks were turned away. Most of the truck drivers who make deliveries to Giant Big Apple are Teamsters and thus respect picket lines. However, there were some Teamsters as well as some independent contractors who drove their trucks past the lines. Even though some drivers crossed, enough trucks were turned away to have caused a substantial loss to the company this week.

The power of the line was proved true by the fact that the company began holding unusual hours later in the week so that they could still receive their deliveries. One day, they opened at 6:00 am, two hours earlier than normal, so that they could receive a Budweiser shipment.

Overall, the pickets were effective in giving the company a scare.


Over the past few months, all of the known union workers at Giant Big Apple have had their cars damaged while they were at work. Damages include: smashing in headlights, slashing tires, and even pouring sugar down one car’s gas tank (the motor of that car is now ruined). These vandalisms have all taken place in the parking lot of the warehouse. When one employee asked to see the surveillance camera that covers the parking lot, he was told that the camera does not cover the specific part of the parking lot his car was parked in.


Giant Big Apple is one of five food warehouse companies that the IWW has been targeting for unfair labor practices. When workers first approached the IWW, they were working around 70 hours a week and earning $350 with no overtime compensation. Most of the employees are undocumented workers from Mexico. Those who have tried to unionize have had their hours cut or have even been fired. One union worker was told he was let go because there was no work for him, yet the company then immediately hired somebody else.

The folks at Giant Big Apple clearly think they can intimidate workers who try to stand up for their rights. This past week, workers and their allies sent a strong message to the company that such intimidation tactics will not be tolerated.

For more information:
visit www.wobblycity. org
email com
Working Class Hero: Alexandra Svoboda - Maimed By Cops, Charged With Felonies

By DANIEL GROSS - Counterpunch, October 8, 2008

A peaceful union march is brutally attacked by police. A union activist’s leg is horribly disfigured and nearly amputated. Maimed possibly for life, she is charged with multiple felony offenses.

The battleground is not the coalfields of Harlan County in the 1930s or 1970s; it's not an example of anti-union violence in Colombia or the Philippines. Our setting is present day Providence, Rhode Island.

On that brilliant Saturday, August 11 of 2007, Alexandra Svoboda didn’t do what she was supposed to do. She didn’t stay home and watch TV. She didn’t go shop at her local Wal-Mart. She didn’t waste away hours on MySpace.

That beautiful Saturday afternoon, Alex chose action. A twenty-two year old worker, student, and union activist, she had heard the call for solidarity from a group of immigrant workers organizing at a Queens, New York sweatshop. The sweatshop, known as HWH-Dragonland Trading, distributed restaurant supplies and maintained labor conditions horrendous even by the abysmal standards of the sector.

Some of the workers at the company joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the union which Alex is a member of. The workers were fed up with rampant abuse, stolen wages, and work weeks over 100 hours.

When it became known that the sweatshop sold supplies to a restaurant chain with a location in North Providence, Alex and her fellow IWW members in Providence knew they had to act. They were motivated not by some notion of charity, but by a belief in solidarity and mutual aid. That is, the concept that as workers we all benefit when we stand together no matter our race, immigration status, gender, or sexual orientation.

As the mostly young IWW workers marched toward Jackie’s Galaxie restaurant to raise awareness about its relationship to the Queens sweatshop, North Providence police officers began their attack. Inexplicably, three police officers singled out Alex and violently dislocated her knee as they threw her into the ground. A cop then sat on the horrifically injured Alex and handcuffed her. Meanwhile, fellow IWW member Jason Friedmutter was taken down, cuffed, and arrested as well. Other peaceful marchers were pepper sprayed. (Graphic photos of the brutal police assault are available here.)

After the attack, doctors conducted an emergency surgery on Alex’s leg. Had the surgery not succeeded, they would have proceeded with amputation plans. Three more surgeries, unspeakable pain, and countless hours of physical therapy followed. The police had torn the popliteal artery in Alex’s knee, fractured her tibia and fibia, and caused meniscus as well as ligament tears. Because of her injury, Alex hasn’t been able to work in over a year. Her life will never be the same.

Communities of color, low-wage workers, and other groups familiar with police brutality know that criminal charges or innuendo against victims is the norm following police aggression. The case of Alex and Jason is no different. Alex was charged ridiculously but not surprisingly with three felony counts of assaulting a police officer as well as misdemeanor resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Jason was charged with obstruction of justice. Though Alex’s felony charges have now been downgraded to misdemeanors, the pair still face a criminal trial in the upcoming months.

Confronted with the determined resolve of Alex and her fellow unionists, Jackie’s Galaxie ultimately cut off all ties with the HWH-Dragonland sweatshop. HWH-Dragonland has since reportedly gone out of business. While a union shop with quality wages and working conditions would have been a better outcome, at least there's one less worker abusing sweatshop on Planet Earth and one more example of the consequences of union-busting for other sweatshops.

Alex Svoboda joins a long line of working class heroes who have been severely wounded or killed struggling for justice against the capitalists and their unchecked corporate power. In Thomas Paine’s phrase, she “dare[d] oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant.” By engaging in direct action on behalf of her class, she aroused the ire of the State and suffered terribly for it.

Revolutionary change comes about through the everyday hard work and sacrifice of people like Alex. She was out there for us that fateful day --- all of us who have felt the sting of indignity at work and who believe that working people deserve better.

Let’s be there for her now. Alex and Jason need financial and moral support to have their innocence affirmed at trial. You can e-mail for details on how to lend a hand.

When you stand firm in your life not just against exploitation, but the exploiter-corporations themselves, I hope you’ll be strengthened and inspired by Alex’s example. I know I am.

Daniel Gross is an organizer with the Industrial Workers of the World and the founding director of Brandworkers, a non-profit organization protecting and advancing the rights of retail and food chain employees. He is the co-author with Staughton Lynd of "Labor Law for the Rank and Filer: Building Solidarity While Staying Clear of the Law," just out from PM Press. You can contact him through
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