Starbucks. Many Americans may think the Seattle-based coffee chain is generally well-liked by its employees and generally well-liked by liberals, but to some left-wing organizers, it's the new Wal-Mart. Sooner or later the Washington Post was going to notice.
And so today's paper splashed its Style section cover page with a David Segal story about Daniel Gross, a "scruffy college grad" that became the "Norma Rea of the Caramel Macchiato."
But the thing is that organizer Gross doesn't work for a liberal-but-mainstream labor union like any number of unions that report to the AFL-CIO. No, Gross is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a self-described radical organization that thinks the AFL-CIO is too soft on corporate America.
From the group's Web site, here's how IWW describes itself, (portions in bold are my emphasis):
Furthermore, historians and reporters often associate the IWW with Communism, even though the IWW is not a Communist organization. The IWW is a revolutionary industrial unionist organization, and its membership includes radicals of every stripe, including anarchist, communist, socialist, syndicalist, etc. However, there exists a very strong anti-Communist ideology in the USA, due to lingering elements of Cold War propaganda, and as such any radical organization, no matter what its orientation is often dismissed as "Communist".
Reporter Segal avoids the label "radical" in his article, although he does concede, deep within the article, that IWW has a history of "militancy."
Gross and others announced in 2004 their intention to unionize through the IWW, an organization known for militancy during its heyday in the '20s. This might seem an unlikely choice -- the union is tiny these days -- but the Wobblies, as they're known, allowed Gross and his comrades to negotiate directly with Starbucks, and didn't require certification votes at each store that would bestow upon the group official status in the eyes of the company.The company has never considered any of the nine stores in question to be actual union shops. Official or not, though, Starbucks seemed eager to stop this union concept before it gained momentum...