Monday, July 7, 2008

Union Organizers Challenge Starbucks

Since Ruth never takes me anywhere, I told her on Saturday, July 5th, to grab the two new hi-def video cameras. On this sunny Michigan holiday weekend, I was taking her for a special ride, Bush-gas-prices-be-damned!

No, we weren’t heading to Rothbury or to Detroit’s CityFest. Nor were we going to get the boat out of storage. Instead, an hour later, we pulled into a strip mall at the corner of 28th Street and East Beltline in Kentwood, Michigan. Flapping in the wind from the roof of the Starbucks coffee shop was a Venti-size banner, “Boycott Starbucks.” Yep, I told Ruth, I betcha this is the place.

It turns out we were early for the 4 p.m. protest. Apparently, unidentified persons took the initiative – independent of the scheduled protest – to unfurl a message from the roof of the coffee shop. I shot pictures and video of the spectacle.

Further down the sidewalk, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union organizers were setting up for the "Global Day of Action,” an international protest opposing the anti-union policies and union-busting tactics of the Starbucks Corporation. Protests challenging the company’s well-cultivated “socially-responsible” reputation were planned around the globe. On this Saturday, Starbucks' respect (or lack thereof) for workers’ rights and its treatment of its employees were in the spotlight – not a good way to end a week in which the company had to announce the closure of 600 stores.

Starbucks run-ins with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have been publicized by the IWW, as workers struggled to organize in New York City and elsewhere. Adding to the mix, two union organizers – one in Sevilla, Spain and one in Grand Rapids, Michigan – were recently fired by Starbucks. As might be expected, Cole Dorsey, the fired Grand Rapids barista was on hand to lead Saturday’s protest.

My video and photo coverage of the protest will come over the next few days. Tomorrow I will publish an extended one-on-one interview with Cole Dorsey.


Cole Dorsey addressed approximately 40 supporters. Watching from the Starbucks parking lot was a group of police officers and (at one point) four police vehicles.

IWW Union Protest at Grand Rapids Starbucks from Rico Thomas Rico on Vimeo.


Union supporting baristas lined up to express their support for global solidarity against Starbucks anti-union behavior. See what happened for yourself:

Union Protest at Grand Rapids Starbucks from Rico Thomas Rico on Vimeo.

Tomorrow: An extended interview with Cole Dorsey. In the meantime, get a sneak peak at my 83 photos by clicking here.

Also, details about the protest from the Grand Rapids baristas may be attained from Cole's blog.

-- Rico Thomas Rico

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