Workers at an LA Starbucks file petition to unionize

They allege low wages, erratic scheduling, unsanitary conditions and workloads that leave employees exhausted

Low wages, erratic scheduling, unsanitary conditions and heavy workloads are the chief complaints driving workers at a Starbucks in Los Angeles to unionize.

Employees filed a petition Friday with the National Labor Relations Board to join Starbucks Workers United.

“We expect to hear back from the labor board in six weeks,” said Andrew Gillespie, a shift supervisor at the store, at 5757 Wilshire Blvd. near the La Brea Tar Pits. “Then we’ll hold our election and hopefully win our union.”

The employees are joining a nationwide movement that has seen more than 9,000 baristas organizing for better working conditions, fair wages and consistent schedules.

Starbucks Workers United has gained considerable traction in recent years, unionizing more than 360 Starbucks stores in 41 states and Washington, D.C. since December 2021.

Locally, that includes three LA locations and two in Anaheim, with additional stores in Long Beach, Lakewood, Huntington Beach, La Quinta, Barstow, Encinitas and San Diego.

Gillespie, 26, who has worked at the Wilshire Boulevard store for a year and a half, said management has been “unsupportive” in its scheduling.

“They’re focused on trying to cut labor costs wherever possible,” he said. “Business is always heavy in the morning, but it’s busy in the afternoon, too and employees will end up doing the work of two, three or even four people.”

Gillespie said the store has also had an ongoing problem with ants, cockroaches and mosquitoes.

“They come from the Miracle Mile drainage system,” he said. “I’ve tried to get them to bring in an exterminator, but they just give us DIY tips on how to address it ourselves.”

In a statement issued Monday, Nov. 20, Starbucks said it’s encouraged by the progress it’s seen toward first contracts at stores where union representatives have approached bargaining with “professionalism and an actual interest in discussing partner priorities with our bargaining committees.”

“Wherever we can quickly and broadly improve partner benefits and perks, our history demonstrates we have,” the company said.

Starbucks Workers United said the coffee chain has launched a “ruthless union-busting campaign.”

“We demand change in our workplace and do not deserve retaliation for trying to speak up,” said Hailie Muro, a barista at the LA location.

Administrative judges have issued 37 decisions finding Starbucks committed more than 300 federal labor law violations, the union said, including unlawful firings, refusing to bargain and giving nonunion workers higher wages and better benefits than employees who have sought to unionize.

decision last month by Judge Mara-Louise Anzalone marked the first nationwide ruling against the coffee giant amid its resistance to a unionization wave that began two years ago.

Anzalone noted that Starbucks has rolled out new wage rates and expanded benefits to employees, but only to its “entire hourly, nonunion workforce.” She ordered the company to compensate thousands of unionized workers for the wages and benefits they were unlawfully denied.

Starbucks said it recently announced annual pay raises of 3-5% for “all eligible U.S. hourly retail partners, differentiated for tenure — further enhancing our current average U.S. hourly partner pay of $17.50 per hour.”

Gillespie said workers at the LA store are seeking a base wage of $20 an hour.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

California Cities are Banning Plastic Straws and It Sucks

Straws1On July 24, San Francisco city officials unanimously passed an ordinance forbidding the city’s restaurants and bars from giving customers plastic items, including straws, cocktail swords, and takeout containers treated with fluorinated chemicals. The ordinance will have to be voted on a second time and if it passes it’ll go to the mayor for approval.

San Francisco will be the second major city to take steps to ban plastic straws, joining Seattle in spearheading the ever-growing anti-straw crusade. Malibu, Santa Cruz, Manhattan Beach and San Luis Obispo — all in California as well — have also passed plastic straw bans. Santa Barbara not only banned plastic straws, but compostable straws too.

Local governments aren’t alone, as a handful of businesses have taken a stand against plastic straws. Starbucks is perhaps the most high profile company who has decided to ditch straws in exchange for strawless plastic lids. On July 9, Starbucks announced that by 2020 it will eliminate over 1 billion plastic straws from all its stores. Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels Corps and Hilton Hotels all have made similar commitments.

While plastic straw bans may make people feel good and think they’re saving the environment, in reality, they hardly make a dent in overall plastic pollution.

For one, the number of plastic straws used by Americans on a daily basis is in dispute. Like several other ban proposals, the San Francisco ordinance cites a statistic that Americans go through 500 million straws a day. Reason writer Christian Britschgi tracked down the source of that number: a nine-year-old boy.

In 2011, Milo Cress conducted a phone survey of straw manufacturers. Now 16, Cress told Britschgi that the National Restaurant Association has endorsed his estimates in private.

But, as Britschgi points out in his article, the number of straws used each day isn’t as important as knowing how many actually end up in our waterways.

“We don’t know that figure either,” Britschgi writes. “The closest we have is the number of straws collected by the California Coastal Commission during its annual Coastal Cleanup Day: a total of 835,425 straws and stirrers since 1988, or about 4.1 percent of debris collected.”

A 2015 study published in Science calculated out of 275 million metric tons of plastic produced from 192 coastal countries in 2010, anywhere between 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons entered the ocean. East Asian and Pacific countries were responsible for the majority of plastic pollution with China, Indonesia and the Philippines topped the list of plastic polluters. China contributed 27.7 percent of all mismanaged plastic waste compared to the United States which was responsible for 0.9 percent.

The researchers point to improving waste management as the solution to the environmental problem. Countries like the Philippines and China need to invest in infrastructure to better deal with waste and recyclables. Without these improvements, plastic pollutions will dramatically increase.

Out of the top 20 countries contributing to this problem, 16 are middle income countries “where fast economic growth is probably occurring but waste management infrastructure is lacking.” Addressing those infrastructure problems could make a major difference in plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

But reforming waste management infrastructure in countries halfway across the globe is a massive project requiring far greater effort than banning plastic straws. City officials, like those in San Francisco, are taking a largely symbolic stance when they ban plastic straws. This wouldn’t be an issue if it didn’t mean restaurant or bar owners faced fines or even jail time for providing plastic straws to customers.

First time offenders of the San Francisco ban face a written warning, but after that they can be hit with fines anywhere between $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for repeated offense. In Santa Barbara, a second violation of the code means a $100 fine and a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor is punishable up to a max $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

The Santa Barbara City Council is reconsidering the ban to include an exemption for those with disabilities who rely on straws to enjoy their drinks.

There’s a reason most businesses give their customers plastic straws: they’re relatively cheap and people want them. Companies like Starbucks are free to eliminate plastic straws from its stores if it wants to, but imposing that same choice on all businesses, big and small, is wrong.

Wanting to protect the environment is a noble goal, but good intentions don’t always translate to good policy. The market could provide the environmentally friendly goods that consumers want if the government wasn’t busy micromanaging every aspect of it.

Reusable or biodegradable straws — although far from perfect — are increasing in popularity and could prove to be the answer to our plastic straw woes. Or perhaps the plastic straw alternative has yet to be invented, but in any case, providing people with better options instead of depriving them of choice is the key to shaping consumer behavior. It could even make the oceans that much cleaner.

Lindsay Marchello is a Young Voices Advocate and an Associate Editor with the Carolina Journal. Follow her on Twitter @LynnMarch007.

California’s top court rules workers must be paid for off-the-clock tasks

StarbucksCalifornia’s Supreme Court ruled that employers must pay workers for the time they spend completing off-the-clock tasks, such as locking up after work.

The decision, issued this week, marks a win for labor advocates who say requiring hourly workers to spend minutes doing unpaid tasks amounts to wage theft. Business groups say the ruling will embolden frivolous lawsuits and cost companies money.

A federal law, called the Fair Labor Standards Act, generally allows companies to avoid compensating employees for time spent on duties the law describes as trivial or too difficult to track.

In its majority opinion, the California Supreme Court said the federal rule does not apply in the state when it comes to certain off-the-clock tasks performed by employees.

It’s the result of a six-year legal battle between Starbucks (SBUX) and Douglas Troester, a California worker who sued the company for not paying him for closing tasks that he said took four to 10 additional minutes after he clocked out each day. …

Click here to read the full article from CNN