Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Trouble Brewing

This may not be a politically popular position for me to stake out, but I'm just not sure that I'm buying into this:
A group of Starbucks employees in Logan Square have joined a union, the first group outside of New York, despite the coffee company’s refusal to recognize organized labor.

The workers at 2759 W. Logan Blvd. announced Tuesday night that they were affiliating with the Industrial Workers of the World Starbucks Workers Union in an effort to increase hourly pay, have a guaranteed number of work hours per week and to reinstate employees who they claim were fired for union organizing activity. Union representatives declined to disclose membership numbers...

Union members are demanding a pay increase to $10 an hour for entry-level workers from the current $7.50 an hour in addition to guaranteed minimum hours and healthcare benefits.

“There are no minimum hours and that’s the problem,” Mr. Tessone said. “Our schedule is at the mercy of the manager.”

With regards the healthcare, union officials claim Starbucks only covers 42% of its workers, less than the 47% that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is often criticized for.

While I understand that they may think that their timing is right, I think that some of their fundamentals are wrong. My reservations are based upon two factors: First, I believe that the current wages and benefits seem pretty darn good for the job requirements. Second, the numerous people that I have talked with who work or have worked at Starbucks, (including a former district office staffer of mine) all were very happy with the compensation structure and treatment of employees. In fact, Starbucks is consistently ranked as one of the top corporations when it comes to employee satisfaction.

As far as schedule and hours are concerned - welcome to the real world. Union or no union, seniority drives better scheduling and assignments. If people want to push for a living wage across the board, then they should pursue that struggle. But I think that these folks are going to have a hard time trying to find sympathy for their cause, (or loyalty to the store when another is likely only a couple of blocks away.) Then again, stranger things have happened, especially in this City of late.

To my friends at my local Starbucks, don't get me wrong, I love you guys. But this is bigger than my daily caffeine fix. Just please tell me that somebody in City Council isn't going to try to legislate this.


At August 30, 2006 at 8:15 PM, Blogger Yellow Dog Democrat said...

John - my bet is that this is related to management problems at this particular store, and not a reflection on Starbuck's as a whole.

I had a restaurant manager once who didn't like the fact that I was dating a waitress that was the apple of his eye.

If he fired me, he'd have to pay me unemployment. Instead, he just reduced my hours to zero.

Restaurant managers can be capricious jerks, and when you work for tips, the guy who makes out the schedule controls your income.

Refuse the schedulers offer to go out for drinks sometime, and you find yourself scheduled for monday and tuesday day shifts instead of Friday and Saturday nights.

It's almost considered a fact of life in the restaurant business. It sounds like these employees have had enough.

At August 30, 2006 at 9:39 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...


Having waited tables in my previous life, I agree with your observation. But these days, you have to be wary of ideas like this that suddenly gain critical mass despite common sense, eg. foie gras.

At August 30, 2006 at 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

YDD - i see your point (sorry 'bout your days at the olive garden, btw, sounds rough), but if the employees are that unhappy in a notoriously good work environment, they need new gigs, not collective bargaining.

At August 30, 2006 at 11:38 PM, Anonymous Carlos said...

Gaining "critical mass"? It's one store. YDD's point about particular greivances make senses. It is within the employees' rights. Thanks for your thoughts on this, though.

At August 31, 2006 at 12:12 AM, Blogger John Ruberry said...

John: The Wobblies are a joke, dues are cheap for Wobs, but the union provides little support for their members.

You get what you pay for.

At August 31, 2006 at 2:28 AM, Blogger Attrill said...

I agree that it is probably a management problem. It is most likely a situation where the workers feel that seniority and competence are not being rewarded and hours are being scheduled based on the manager's personal relationships.

If Starbuck's regional managers haven't been able to identify and resolve this conflict then they'll reap what they sowed. If this idea does reach critical mass it is a result of Starbuck's not having appropriate oversight of their individual stores. It could also be the result of a common corporate approach of trying to address valid employee concerns with empty talk of empowering them.

I think the Fois Gras ban is ridiculous, and the big box legislation is seriously flawed (a raise in the minimum wage is very overdue-but don't address that by singling out one type of business).

This is different - it seems to be an issue of a poorly run store, possibly combined with a poor management model.

At August 31, 2006 at 9:18 AM, Anonymous Angry Barrista said...

No coffee for you Fritchey! :0

At August 31, 2006 at 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When did you become a republican? $7.50 an hour is an ok base pay? You try living on it. Obviously you don't know anything about negotiations? You don't put the amount you would settle for on the table at the begining.
What bothers me the most is that these people are doing what they failed to do at Walmart, form a union. And you are critisizing them for it? They are trying to keep government out of it by forming a collective bargaining unit. If the workers at Walmart were successful at forming a union you would not have seen the big box law.
I have always liked you John, but if you have plans for higher office I think this post is going to come back and haunt you. Especially if you go looking for support from the working families in this state.

At August 31, 2006 at 12:25 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Anon 9:32,

I respect your comments, but you might want to reread my post. I tried to make clear that if the real issue is a living wage, then that fight should be taken on across the board.

The jist of their workplace complaints seem to be rooted in guaranteed hours, something that doesn't exist in a unionized world either.

I am proud of my support for workers in my decade in the legislature, and I think that my consistent support by labor is a pretty good indication of their respect for my efforts as well.

I'm not sure that this specific issue is one that resonates particularly well with anybody, regardless of party.

As far as my future plans are concerned, I guess I could play it safe and not comment on anything unless I had to. But for better or worse, that's not my style. If it was, I never would have started this blog.

My intention has always been to at least try to make people think about issues and try to create a forum for debate and discussion.

I think that the public deserves better than having to guess what their officials are thinking and, for better or worse, I am trying to create open lines of communication and remove some of the disconnect between voters and the people whom they elect.

I believe that the blog and the openness are good ideas. As for how the substance of my views and beliefs will go over, they are what they are, and I guess time will tell .

Staying quiet may be safer for an elected official, but that doesn't mean that it's better for the process.

At August 31, 2006 at 3:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hon. Fritchey,

Your response was well articulated and an example of the type of reasoning & expression your readers have missed as of late.

At September 1, 2006 at 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto the last comments Rep. If you do (hopefully) run in the future, your efforts to be straightforward will be a welcome breath of fresh air. Have a good holiday.

At September 21, 2006 at 2:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DLC position on organizing.

Wow, you're right of the DLC. The issue is not whether or not they should get benefits, they should have the right to try to organize to get them. If mgmt stinks, they'll get it. If not, they won't. That's why organizing is a much better solution than legislating.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home