The National Labor Relations Board laid the smack down on the wrist of Starbucks last week, siding with union organizers in finding that the coffee giant engaged in unfair labor practices at eight Minneapolis-area stores. The union said that Starbucks kicked visiting organizers out of their stores and told them they couldn't talk about the union, and also retaliated via disciplinary measures against employees who tried to organize.
The NLRB proposed a settlement, which Starbucks can accept or decline and then face a formal complaint before an administrative law judge. But the real kick is the employees' union. When I heard Starbucks employees were organizing, I automatically thought it would be under the umbrella of the SEIU, the fast-growing, aggressive, powerful union of service industry employees (local branches of which recently protested in front of the First Hill Bank of America).
Instead, though, the Starbucks Workers Union is organized under the Industrial Workers of the World (aka the Wobblies), the international union that was a powerhouse in the early 20th century, opposing World War I, calling general strikes, and facing violent repression from business groups and government. (A particularly notable episode occurred in Centralia.) Those who keep close tabs on labor (or coffee) news probably know that the IWW has been organizing in Starbucks and elsewhere, but for the casual observer, it's a trip to see their name in the news.