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Cambridge Backs the Wobblies

Wobbly Union Gets Support - City Council sides with Industrial Workers of the World in dispute with Starbucks

Virginia Fisher and Nicholas Tabor

From The Harvard Crimson

You may soon be able to get a shot of
“anarcho-syndicalism” with your mocha Frappuccino, if
the Cambridge City Council has its way.

In its meeting last night, the council passed a
resolution supporting the right of Starbucks employees
to organize under the aegis of the Industrial Workers
of the World (IWW), or "Wobblies," a union made famous
in the early 20th century for a brand of radical
socialism known as “anarcho-syndicalism.” The IWW
advocates “aboliton of the wage system” on its

“Starbucks is an international corporation with many
assets, and millions and millions of dollars, [and]
they should refrain from interfering with the workers
right to organize,” the resolution reads.

Labor organizing efforts began in 2004 with the
founding of the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) in New
York City. The group sought a living wage and
consistent work hours for Starbucks employees. They
also claimed that Starbucks facilities violated local
health codes.

Organizers claim that they have experienced systematic
intimidation from Starbucks management over the past
four years. However, the organizers also take credit
for the wage increases that baristas across the U.S.
and Canada received this September.Starbucks officials did not return a request for
comment. But in a statement on its website, Starbucks
touts its “top tier” wages and “extensive” health
plan. “Starbucks does not take action or retaliate
against partners who might be interested or take part
in union activity,” says the statement, dated Dec. 2,

Although official Starbucks unions exist only in New
York and Chicago, John MacLean, a union organizer
present at the council meeting, said he hopes Boston
will soon follow.

“We have people inside, undercover,” he said. “We’re
trying to build groups in stores, so a cluster of
workers can confront their manager with a list of

Charles Fostrom, a former barista in New York who
claims he was fired because of his union activism,
also spoke at the meeting in support of the

“Starbucks has said the union doesn’t exist, harassed
and intimidated baristas who try to organize, and
refused to listen to our demands,” he said.

Several customers at Starbucks’ branch in the Garage
shopping center on JFK Street said they supported the
council’s gesture.

“I think Starbucks is oversaturating the market, and
if they have that much business, there won’t be a need
for workers that want more money,” said Matthew F.
Cammarata, a senior at Boston College, as he sipped
one of the chain’s blended drinks.

Also during the public comment part of the meeting,
Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen spoke out in
opposition to his neighbor’s petition for a curb cut
to expand a driveway.

“We are concerned about the adverse affects of this
curb cut for our trees,” Sen, who holds the Lamont
University Professorship at Harvard, told the council.