The Bariastas, & The Christian

Two stories caught my attention as both are related to employee/worker rights.

The first was with Starbucks’ union busting activities, and the second with an employee who was fired for saying “Merry Christmas.”

give-war-bonds-christmasWe’ll begin with the latter.  This undoubtedly will fall under the category – War on Christmas.

An employee who is Christian (Baptist) says she was fired “because she greeted callers with “Merry Christmas.” The company, Counts-Oakes Resorts Properties Inc., defines itself as being  “[We are] a Christian company and we celebrate Christmas,” said Andy Phillips, the company’s president.  The employee had been with Counts-Oakes Resort Properties, Inc.,  since July 2007.

The jist is that Mr. Phillips wanted employees to say ‘Happy Holidays’ and the employee refused, stating that:

“I hold my core Christian values to a high standard and I absolutely refuse to give in on the basis of values. All I wanted was to be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or to acknowledge no holidays,” she said Tuesday. “As a Christian, I don’t recognize any other holidays.”

The employee has enlisted the services of the Liberty Counsel to represent her before the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission and is filing a federal complaint, stating ‘religious discrimination’ based on her refusal to say ‘Happy Holidays.’  She reports to have been accommodating enough to use the “company’s non-holiday greeting.”  Also mentioned in the complaint was the summoning of the police by the employer to observe the employee packing up her stuff and escorting her from the employer’s property.

Thomas has found another job, but she makes less than the $10.50 an hour she earned with the rental company. She said the trauma of being fired and the pay cut has made for a tough holiday season for herself, her husband and their 6-year-old son.

Whaddya think, insubordination or discrimination?


The other story – Starbucks & unionizing of employees with the help of the IWW – International Workers of the World (The Wobblies) with the web site for the workers of Starbucks here.  A judge with the NLRB found Starbucks guilty of federal labor law violations.

New York, NY (Dec. 23, 2008)—Following a lengthy trial here last year, a National Labor Relations Board judge has found Starbucks guilty of extensive violations of federal labor law in its bid to counter the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. In an 88-page decision, starbuckslogo2Judge Mindy E. Landow found, among other things, that Starbucks maintained multiple policies which interfered with workers’ right to communicate about the union and about working conditions; terminated three workers in retaliation for union activity; and repeatedly discriminated against union supporters. The decision comes despite a 2006 New York settlement in which Starbucks pledged to stop illegal anti-union activities and mirrors federal government action against the company for its conduct toward baristas in Minnesota and Michigan.

The demands aren’t overly grand – just the usual.

  • Increased pay and raises
  • Guaranteed hours with the option of fulltime status
  • An end to understaffing
  • A healthier and safer workplace

Starbucks workers in the United States earn as little $6, $7, or $8 per hour depending on the location.

On top of the low wage, every single barista in the United States is part-time and not guaranteed any work hours per week.

If “ever single barista in the United States is part-time” then you know exactly what that means.  They lack health benefits. According to the info at the website “Starbucks insures a lower percentage of its workforce than Wal-Mart” and puts that figure at 42% of Starbucks’ work force as being insured; Wal-Mart’s figure is placed at 47% insured.  Insured on the company’s insurance or insured under either the company’s insurance or ‘someone’s insurance’ be it spouse, parent or other, I’m not sure.

Starbucks is a company that quite openly boasts of being an ethical and socially responsible company and is boldly stated on their company web page.  Up front on their ‘About Us’ page:

The bottom line We always figured that putting people before products just made good common sense. So far, it’s been working out for us. Our relationships with farmers yield the highest quality coffees. The connections we make in communities create a loyal following. And the support we provide our baristas pays off everyday.

There’s actually quite a bit on their web pages.  It’s very interesting. It’s engaging, very attractive and quite alluring.  Two left-sided side bars are social responsibility and business ethics & compliance. Under corporate social responsibility, there are links for Mercy Corps, Conservation International, Earthwatch, Save the Children, even a little about composting.   Under business ethics & compliance page, there’s the part about “living our values” and two links, one to Ethics & Compliance Officer Association and the other to Ethics Resource Center.  Then there’s  ‘The Standards of Business Conduct’ booklet which

“is a resource distributed to all partners to help them make appropriate decisions at work. The Standards are a brief statement of some of the company’s expectations of how we are all to conduct Starbucks business, consistent with our Guiding Principles.” [Good thing there’s PDFs in English, Chines, Spanish, French, German, & Thai.]


Now….. it’s quite interesting to see what rivets your attention when you reading about something. Via U.S. News economic blog, Planning to Retire, the WSJ reports being sent a letter from Starbucks regarding their partners (the baristas) 401(k) accounts.  There Emily Bradburn explains the accumulation of matching funds by Starbucks.

Starbucks Corp. told employees the company will no longer guarantee that it will make a company match to their 401(k) accounts next year.

In a letter to employees sent last week, the coffee giant said it will switch to a “fully discretionary match” from a “fixed employer match” starting Jan. 1 for employees “future roast” retirement savings plans. That means the company can decide whether or not to make matching contributions to participants in the retirement plan …

Whaddya think – payback?

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