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Wobblies Know How to Ringin the New Year! - IWW Hits Starbucks with Protest

By Stephanie Basile; Photo By Liberte Locke

The SWU staged a New Year's Eve protest as part of the ongoing campaign for Hurst. In addition to demanding pay for Hurst, the demonstrators talked to customers about the union's struggle for secure work hours and respect on the job. For one of the demonstrators, Starbucks barista Henry Marin, it was his first public action as a member of the union.

The group of about 10 union members spent an hour demonstrating on a cold New Year's Eve, chanting outside the Union Square East store and holding signs bearing slogans such as "support Your Local Union Baristas," and the soon-to-be ubiquitous slogan "Where's Anna's Money?" Customers were encouraged to ask management this question inside. One customer reported that the manager he spoke to pretended she had no idea what he was talking about.

Where's Anna's Money?

When a person is sick and has to leave work early, and if that person happens to be a part-time hourly wage earner, she or he misses out on the remaining hours in that shift. Having no paid sick time, this and other precarious situations are of the type that Starbucks baristas are used to dealing with.

And thus, when Anna Hurst left work sick during a shift this past August, she already knew she'd have to deal with losing a few hours' pay. Never do people imagine, though, that their employer will then deny them an additional two weeks of work. Unfortunately, that's exactly what Starbucks did. After having to leave sick, Hurst called work the next day to find out her schedule only to discover that her name had been removed from the schedule for two weeks.

Since then, Hurst has been trying to procure back wages for the work she was denied. She first pursued channels through the company and made no progress. She then decided to join the union.

The IWW has engaged in a number of actions, starting on November 6th when members from the union marched into the store and delivered a letter to management demanding the two weeks' pay. The union also organized a call and text-in to the store manager and district manager, and leafleted outside the store with flyers that featured a photograph of store manager Gwen Krueger.

Not only has Starbucks refused to so much as apologize for what happened, but management has repeatedly tried to convince Hurst to stop trying to obtain her wages. Krueger has even offered conflicting stories to upper management. She went so far as to threaten a lawsuit and criminal complaint against the IWW.

After the first few days of the call and text-in, Hurst was called into a meeting with Krueger and district manager Mark Ormsbee. During the meeting, she was told that she will never get the pay she is owed and to stop trying. "Mark basically told me the conversation was over," recalls Hurst.

At the same meeting, Krueger made her conflicting remarks, first saying that on the day she went home sick, Hurst walked out of the store without telling anyone. "First she said that I didn't say anything and just left," says Hurst. "Then she said that she heard the beginning of what I said but not the end." Hurst says when she tried to point this and other contradictions out to Ormsbee, that he sided with Krueger every time.

In response to Krueger's lawsuit threat, the union stated, "the IWW Starbucks Workers Union takes our right to defend baristas' interests and our right to free speech very seriously." They plan to continue taking action until Hurst receives the pay she is owed.

Hurst says she is grateful to have the support of the union. "I appreciate everyone's help," she says. "Usually, when something like this happens, you"re on your own."

It's approaching 8pm and the protestors have been outside in the freezing cold for almost an hour. Hurst takes a look around, smiles, and says "I'm feeling a lot of love and support."