Monthly Archives: September 2011

If I was the boss …

Starbucks Baristas serve strike notice

The Canadian Press. Posted: Sep 16, 2011 3:25 PM ET

Starbucks Baristas have given their strike notice and could be off the job as early as Wednesday.

The notification was delivered to a federal mediator Friday evening, and sets the clock ticking for a showdown between 6,000 Baristas and Starbucks.

There’s still a possibility that the two sides can reach a deal that avoids a walkout or lockout at Canada’s largest specialty coffee chain.

The Baristas, who are represented by a branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, are in a legal strike position about 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

They were also required to give a 72-hour notice of their intention to strike, although that requirement was met with Friday’s announcement.

“Negotiations are ongoing and we still hope to come to an agreement with Starbucks,” Jeff Taylor, president of the Starbucks component of Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Raitt wants meeting with Starbucks, union

Earlier in the day, federal Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said in an email that she would call both sides for a meeting in Ottawa if no deal was reached by the weekend.

“I had a conference call with parties Wednesday evening. My message was that we want them to get a deal that can be ratified by membership. And if they can’t get a deal then I asked them to find a process to get them to a deal. And if after the weekend they haven’t progressed, I want to see them face to face Monday. ”

Raitt’s email added that she thinks “both parties understand the effect that a work stoppage has on the economy and will work hard to get a deal.”

The Seattle-based company is Canada’s largest specialty coffee distributor, which operates across the country and has major continental and international flavours.

The union’s members overwhelmingly voted to give their union a strike mandate, less than a month after they rejected a previous tentative agreement reached by their negotiators.

The Baristas, who have been without a contract since March 31, have been negotiating with the assistance of a federal mediator.

Industry analysts believe the government will move quickly to introduce back-to-work legislation if a strike occurs, especially since a strike by Baristas would have a bigger impact on the coffee chain than the three-day strike in June by marketing agents represented by the Canadian Auto Workers

The CAW union and Starbuck’s reached a negotiated settlement after Raitt announced legislation that would have sent the two sides to arbitration.

The public experienced little, if any disruption, during the CAW strike but the government said the strike threatened the economy.

The economic situation has since worsened, with suggestions that Canada could become the first G7 country to slip into recession after experiencing negative growth in the second quarter.

Starbucks has yet to disclose its contingency plans in the event of a strike, but has said it would operate a reduced service coffee bar with the help of its codeshare partners.

On the Toronto Stock Exchange, Starbucks’s shares hit a 52-week low on Friday but later gained five cents to close at $1.62.

© The Canadian Press, 2011


If you hadn’t already figured it out, that article was a fake. The casual attitude government has when it comes to legislating citizens back to work always makes me think that if Starbucks Baristas had a union, this article would very probably become a reality within days. The original article is here, and is actually about Air Canada vs the government … and it’s management too … I suppose. That’s what I want to address.

Let’s go back in time a bit, shall we? Let’s say all the way to the postal strike.

Remember the postal strike? The one where the workers used rotating walkouts to make their point … while not overmuch affecting service to the customers … and the government assisted management by arranging for the workers to go back to work via legislation, and as a bonus the workers were forced to accept an even more reduced rate than the managers had tried to obtain?

Yeah, that strike.

Now we have managers and workers in a different company negotiating again, and again we have a government saying that if you two don’t get to an agreement we will force the workers back to work.

hmmmm …

I am an Air Canada manager. Please, would someone explain to me what my motivation to negotiate is? If I sit on my hands and do nothing, thereby causing a strike, the government will make my employees go back to work … and if I am really lucky the government will even impose another penalty on my workers, allowing me to pay them less than they get now.

Time for me to call my caddy. He is going to be busy on the links with me for the next few weeks.

My point is clear. If negotiations are to have any meaning in our society, they must be allowed to occur without the constant and one sided intervention of government. If those simple conditions are not met, then negotiations are a sham. Unions are made defacto illegal, and the right to negotiate salary and benefits becomes a privilege held only by the upper classes.

The working class is now made to accept what they are given, and nothing more.

I was recently told in front of a group of people that unions are not under any legal obligation in Canada to allow their members to ratify their contracts. The unions can simply impose whatever settlement they manage to negotiate with management upon their members, and they the members have no legal recourse. The person who said this was in a position to know, so it’s not a stretch to assume it’s true.

If so, then as unions find their coffers thinning in the coming months and years due to the success of this “government assisted” negotiating technique, this action … the imposition upon the worker of the negotiated contract without the worker’s ratification … will begin to appeal to union leaders more and more. Better to impose a bad contract than try and explain why they cannot do better. It will be dressed up as some sort of necessary evil, but as the workers realize their settlements are getting less and less fair, anger will rise. The unanswered anti-union propaganda circulating these last few decades has made unions distrusted entities at best. By implicitly allowing government to make their raison d’etre, the right to negotiate wage and benefits, into a historic anachronism, the unions will have been the greatest architect of their own current enfeeblement and eventual demise.

If I was the boss at Air Canada I would be spending a lot of time in Florida this fall, getting bloody good at my short game.