Former Labour leader calls ‘union-busting tactics’ ‘shocking’
Peace and Justice Project founder and former Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn joined Starbucks workers today to call for the Starbucks coffee chain to recognise trade unions. The US-based company has been accused of fighting a dirty battle – and an unsuccessful one – to prevent its workers organising to bargain collectively.
The London meeting was part of this week’s ‘Global week of action’ to support the Unite union’s ‘Baristas United’ campaign for union recognition, together with the BFAWU (Bakers’) union, which has seen volunteers mobilise in over fifty UK towns and cities. The campaign was also supported by Organise Now! and Strike Map UK and the Peace and Justice Project has launched ChangeIsBrewing.co.uk in support of the campaign
The ‘Baristas United’ campaign is inspired by Starbucks Workers United, who have successfully secured trade union agreements with over 250 Starbucks stores in the US, despite the company’s furious attempts to impede them. Those employed by Starbucks say they have faced increasing uncertainty due to the cost of living crisis, that low pay and zero hours contracts have contributed to financial hardship and that management pressure and chronic understaffing have increasingly become issued.
The growing calls for improved pay and conditions in this country follow Starbucks announcement of £95 million in profit from its UK stories in March 2022, as part of a $3.7 billion profit worldwide. The Peace & Justice Project has also launched its own website for the campaign, which allows supporters from around the world to write to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to demand union recognition.
Jeremy Corbyn spoke at a ‘Baristas United’ campaign launch rally at Starbucks on London’s New Oxford Street on Thursday 17 November, telling media that ‘We’re going to win this one – and after Starbucks we’ll move onto all the others’.
Describing Starbucks’s ‘union-busting tactics’ in the US as ‘shocking’, Corbyn also said:
Decades of austerity and now the soaring cost of living has pushed millions of workers and their families into poverty and desperation.
The time is long overdue for companies like Starbucks to recognise a trade union and negotiate a fair deal with its workers that will see baristas receive better pay and conditions, and help them through these tough times and beyond.
Starbucks has announced huge profits in the UK and around the world, and its tax affairs have been called into question on numerous occasions. They, like companies such as Amazon, Royal Mail and others, simply must be held to account for letting their workers pay the price for the bosses’ greed.
Unite’s lead organiser for Hospitality Bryan Simpson said:
For too long now baristas and cafe workers have had to sustain some of the lowest pay and most insecure contracts in the British economy. Our survey of baristas from across the country found that the top three issues remained poverty pay, inconsistent hours and chronic understaffing.
Our organising campaign Baristas United, aims to change that by bringing together workers from across the big 4 to develop organising strategies which seek to drive-up standards across the sector by making and winning collective demands for a real living wage, guaranteed hours and an end to chronic understaffing.
As one of the richest corporations in the World, Starbucks does everything it can to stop workers in the US from collectively demanding the pay and conditions they deserve. We are sending a message to them and the other big chains that they will not get away with this here and that our members are ready and willing to collectively demand better.
Starbucks worker and union leader Edith Saldano said:
Starbucks union busting tactics have not slowed us down, we have created a mass movement with a customer base and solidarity organisations to back us up. Our message to Starbucks is that the working class will forever be the most decisive in pushing for change. You cannot stop us. We are united, not only in the United States but clearly internationally.
Her colleague Nabretta Hardin said:
My store wanted to unionise because we wanted a say…a conversation to be had if the company was to add or take things that affect our livelihood. We demand respect and deserve to be heard by a company that we work so hard for. Starbucks should stop union busting and have an adult conversation with their workers on what we need from them.”
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