The truth about the million dollar coffee company

| Filed under For discussion life on the job

swuThis week we bring you a second piece from a Starbucks worker about a firing, following Work to Rule. Part of struggle is not only the lessons and strategies, but also the experiences and the real life costs that occur when we start to take action. This submission succinctly takes us though one woman’s experience that ended too soon. 

By: Lyssa 

I think back to the last I worked at Starbucks on 80th and York, and recall what a beautiful day it was outside, that day was a nice break from the harsh winter we had this past year. As I walked into the store that day, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not right. However I still clocked in for my shift at 2:15 pm to close the store with one of new supervisors, put on the “happy barista persona” required of me, and went on the floor to work. About 15 minutes after I had clocked in I watched my supervisor Margret waltz in (15 minutes late and out of dress code) with her sister (another Starbucks partner) in tow, she had the most confused look on her face at the site of me. She said to me “Lyssa are you closing?” I looked at her with an even more confused face and responded to her. “Yeah I am. Why?” To which she replied, “So why did Jennifer have me bring my sister in to close?” At her response I simply shook my head, shrugged my shoulders, and thought to myself, so this is how it’s going to go down. A few minutes later my other shift supervisor Julian pulled me to the side and said to me, “Jennifer asked me to write a statement about the incident that occurred on Saturday even though I wasn’t here, but I told her that I wasn’t going to write it because I did not witness anything. After I told her I wouldn’t write it, Jennifer instead asked me to write a statement about what a bad partner you are, stating that you give me an attitude and that your insubordinate.” I asked her if she was serious, and she said, “Yes”. I told her I didn’t feel comfortable writing a statement like then when we work well together and that I’ve never had any problems with you. I also told her that I think your shift material, and it’s unfair for her to treat you the way she does.” All I could say to Julian was thank you. It almost brought a tear to my eye to know that I her on my side, especially because I know that I’m fighting a losing battle. I told her it’s okay, that I know Jennifer wants to get me out her store because she can’t control me, I’m a strong partner who will not let her walk all over me, and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions or my concerns. It just hurts that Jennifer will get the satisfaction of firing me, for a situation I had no control over, and handled to the best of my ability.

Around 2:35 Jennifer and Katrina (the district manager) asked to see me in the back; it’s not like I didn’t already know what was coming. I knew it from the moment I walked into the store on that beautiful March day, from the moment I saw my supervisor Margret and her sister walk into the store, from the moment my shift Julian pulled me to the side to clue me on Jennifer’s sneaky plan, and from that final moment I looked at the front door and saw Katrina walk into the store. They had finally figured out a way to give me the boot, and I had no control over what was about to happen. I took my time and finished the task I was doing before I waltzed to the back and sat down between the two of them. Jennifer broke the silence first by saying, “Based on the investigation (that lasted three days) and the statements we collected from partners and customers (falsified reports, one of the statements being her own), we’re going to have to separate with you”. I thought to myself, separate? That’s an odd word to use; I didn’t know we were dating. She continued with, “Although you may not have done anything wrong, you didn’t protect yourself and you put your partners as well as customers at risk by not saying anything to your supervisor (who witness the situation and didn’t do anything to prevent it) to prevent the situation from arising”. I said, “So I’m getting fired for handling the situation the best way I know how, even though my supervisor was present and didn’t do anything to help or stop it?” She shook her yes and proceeded to ask me to sign the separation papers (which by the way I refused to sign). She then tore off a carbon copy of the separation paper which was so faint I couldn’t even read the reason she wrote why I was being “separated” from the company, handed it to me and said, “I wish you the best of luck”.

As I sat there looking at these two women there were so many things running through my mind, things I felt I should say, things I know I had no business saying, violent things I wanted to do to Jennifer because of what she was doing to me. While I sat there I recalled the number of times that I had come in to cover shifts for her, working 6,7,8 days straight while going to school full time, working 13 hours shifts, coming in early or staying later because she had no coverage, this was the same women who had turned against me. I had done countless favors for her, looked out for her when no one else had her back, and this was what I got in return. Jennifer knew that this job was my only means of supporting myself, of paying my rent, feeding myself and paying for transportation to get to school, but she didn’t care. I was fired to protect the brand. A brand that feels their partners are replaceable, and if a partner won’t do everything they say, well they can find someone who will. This is what Starbucks does, once they feel threatened in any way by a partner, they find a way to get you out, because your replaceable and they figure someone else who will do anything and everything for your job. In that moment I had come to accept that this was the reality of; this was why the corporation is sosuccessful and why Baristas cannot come together to organize, and fight for their rights. By the time partners come together to organize, they are so broken down by the corporation that they have nothing left in them to fight. So Instead of doing something rash I kept my composure, I thought if I’m going to go, I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of seeing me break. I got up handed them my hat and apron, cleared out my locker, packed my bag, said goodbye to partners and took my last mark out. As I walked out that I door I took one long last look at the store, winked at Jennifer and said, “Don’t worry I’ll be back.”

 

 

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Work to Rule

| Filed under life on the job

swuThis week’s piece comes to us from a Starbucks worker and member of the IWW. She describes what happened when an incompetent bosses crossed the line, and the workers came together to assert themselves. The author describes the tactic of working-to-rule, or following all of managements often incoherent rules that inevitably slows work to a crawl without disobeying any directives. Key to this experience was not only the grievances or tactics which are worth discussing in their own right, but also the perception of power and inspiration that the workers expressed. This is a common theme in worker organizing and often passed over when it remains at the center of the hearts and minds of people standing up against perceived injustices.  (more…)

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Beyond “F*ck You”: An organizer’s approach to confronting hateful language at work

| Filed under For discussion life on the job

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The people we work with usually reflect what the dominant culture of our society is like. This includes some of its worst aspects, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and heterosexism. For worker-organizer’s, these present their own difficulties. They impede our short term goals such as being able to withstand the drudgery of a job, as well as exist as obstacles to uniting our coworkers against management. In addition to these problems, they stand in stark contrast with our long-term goals of creating a new world free of oppression and exploitation. But how do we deal with this? Here is an account from Coeur de Bord about their response to hateful language at their workplace.

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Lessons from small shop organizing

| Filed under life on the job

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A significant amount of organizing experience in the IWW comes from working in relatively small workplaces such as stand-alone single shops or franchises of multiple smaller shops. These places present their own set of difficulties and opportunities. Lou Rinaldi talks about what happened at a former job of his in this piece.

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Going Green at the Cost of Workers’ Safety

| Filed under For discussion life on the job

 

by Emmett J. Nolan

The issue I’m writing about may seem rather trivial to some readers. To be honest, I too was shocked that my co-workers and I had to fight so hard to be heard on such a small and seemingly obvious issue. The issue which management picked to draw a line in the sand over was providing a trash can in the dining area of the café I work at. Yes, a trash can. Something most customers and workers take for granted. Rightfully so, because who could imagine a counter service café with a bus your own table practice operating without a trash can?

 

In an effort to make the company more green, a composting service was hired and new compostable packaging materials were chosen. Now, compostable items were separated from recycling and garbage. A part of this change included removing all four of the trash cans within the dining and patio area of the café. The cans weren’t replaced with a sorting station like many other businesses had done. Instead the company replaced them with a sign that read:

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No Need to Wait till Tomorrow, When Safety Concerns Can Be Fixed Today

| Filed under For discussion life on the job

by Emmett J. Nolan

 

When we encounter challenges and worsening conditions at work, if we don’t respond immediately to those negative changes we risk having those degraded conditions becoming standard procedure. Whether it’s a reduction of staffing, an increased speed of work or anything else that makes our day-to-day lives on the job more complicated or less valuable, we must act quickly or run the risk of these lower standards becoming firmly established into precedent. The longer we wait to respond to these issues, the more challenging it becomes for us and our co-workers to change them. One such example my co-workers and I encountered involved a safety concern. If we did not respond to it immediately, the result would have been a permanent risk to our well-being.

 

One day I arrived to work and nothing seemed to be different; a day that was starting off just like the rest. Fifteen minutes into my shift, I needed to slice a loaf of bread for a customer. Our slicer is automatic, just push a button and a weight pushes the bread against a dozen or so jostling blades, neatly slicing a full-size loaf of bread. For years we’ve used this machine with no issue. I trained and seen countless co-workers trained on this machine. Each time, the optical sensor –if triggered– will stop the blades. This feature is pointed out and demonstrated often by one passing their hand by the sensor. The safety feature came in handy in the past when errand objects fell into the slicer and we needed to fetch them out by hand.

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We’re Not Horses, We Can’t Rest on Our Feet

| Filed under For discussion life on the job

by Emmett J. Nolan

 

On my first day of work, my manager explained to me the three options regarding breaks:

  1. clock out for 30 minutes,
  2. take two 10-minute breaks on the clock, or
  3. take a 20-minute break on the clock.

Additionally, an hour and a half “black-out” period existed for breaks during the busy middle of the day. The actual state law is a 30-minute meal break and two 10-minute rest breaks for a work period over six hours. Not only was this buffet option of breaks illegal, but it was also a strain on the body during a 7 to 9 hour shift. This situation continued on for two years and I discovered that this system was not just limited to my department or workplace, but existed within other departments and at other locations in the company.

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Pushing Back on Discipline

| Filed under For discussion life on the job

by Emmett J. Nolan

 

Chances are we all will inevitably have a run-in with the disciplinary procedure at work. In these moments, it’s natural to feel targeted personally. Often times the warnings are sprung on you by surprise, there may be multiple managers in the meeting with you, and the process doesn’t resemble how you thought the progressive disciplinary procedure worked.

 

Mistakes are inevitable; we’re not robots. Since our livelihood is at risk in these moments, when we have to encounter discipline it’s important that it’s carried out in a manner that is transparent and equitable. Additionally, we should all have the ability to state our defense to the accusations that are brought forward in a disciplinary action. Too often management plays the role of judge, jury, prosecution, and jailor without our side of the story ever considered. In fact, while my company’s manager’s handbook states that during any disciplinary meeting with a worker, a manager is required to have a supervisor or another manager present; alternatively when workers request a witness or an advocate within our disciplinary meetings, our requests are routinely denied. (more…)

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Working at Artistry Bakery and Cafe

| Filed under life on the job Our writings

In this article, Madaline tells the story of how she fell into organizing and the IWW – pushed both by terrible bosses and by amazing solidarity among her coworkers.

Working at Artistry

By Madaline Dreyfus

If the first week of work at Artistry Bakery and Cafe was any indication, there was no way this four-month experience should ever have resulted in two of the strongest friendships in my life. I was introduced on the first day to a group of men and women, mostly about University age, who were also going to be working with me at the restaurant. Before our new manager arrived to start the training, I started talking to a tall, tattooed woman, and the conversation turned to things which embarrassed us. I said that I was embarrassed by my one of my middle names, Ruth, and continued for several minutes to tell her how much I disliked this name. Confidently, I ended with “God, I mean, what a horrible thing to do to your daughter. What’s your name?”

Stone-faced she stared and me and said “Ruth”. I was fairly sure she wouldn’t ever want to speak to me again. (more…)

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Pissing Blood

| Filed under For discussion life on the job

Pissing Blood: Work Sucks
by Abbey Volcano

This is a story about anger, “non-profits,” and pissing blood. I was in my fifth year working at an independent health food store run by religious fanatics in a suburb outside of the city and I needed more money. I started off part-time at a cultural center, working the events. I would mainly be there at night, during performances and exhibits—taking people’s tickets, helping the artists set up, serving hors d’oeuvres, cleaning the toilets, etc. I was paid $12/hr to do this work and it was the most I had ever made in my life and it was the only job that wasn’t in the service industry, so I was pretty excited. Pretty soon after I started they asked me if I could take over the secretarial position. This was a full-time desk job. I really needed the money, especially because the health food store was closing down since a Whole Foods had moved into town. I took the job since I couldn’t have really done much better as far as pay went. (more…)

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