Massive Starbucks Suit Involved Tiny, Obscure Union

Big news on the labor front from a big chain that’s been all up in the headlines: After losing a big huge class-action suit in California, Starbucks has to pay more than $100 million to about 120,000 current and former baristas in that state whose tips it diverted to shift supervisors.

In California, owners, managers or other “agents” of business owners can’t share in tips. In the first phase of the class-action suit, [San Diego Superior Court Judge Patricia] Cowett ruled that shift supervisors were essentially agents under state labor law, and therefore the company’s policy allowing them to share in tips violated that law.

The company argued that shift supervisors were not managers or supervisors, that they performed many of the same tasks as baristas, and should share in the tips.

Starbucks is, of course, appealing the decision. Meanwhile, it’s been hit with an injunction ordering it to stop sharing tips with shift supervisors in California.

As the coffee giant clamors to extract itself from its scalding pot of labor trouble, we were just a little delighted to discover that a heating element in that pot is the Industrial Workers of the World. That’s right, at least some Starbucks workers are organized with the party of Eugene Debs and Utah Phillips. Wow. Could it be there’s power in a union after all? This one’s for you, Wobblies! From now on we’re taking our coffee red.

Starbucks ruling: Pay $105 million in tips case [San Diego Union Tribune]
Starbucks Union [Main Site]
Starbucks [Main Site]
Industrial Workers of the World [Wikipedia]

Massive Starbucks Suit Involved Tiny, Obscure Union