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The Massachusetts DSA Labor Outlet
Updated: 17 hours 22 min ago

Workers Strike Brookline Starbucks

Thu, 2022-07-21 17:35

By Agnes Smedley

Picketing in the Heat

Brookline– The doors are locked and the lights are off at the Starbucks at 874 Commonwealth Ave across from Boston University, as the workers strike until further notice. Working Mass joined Starbucks workers braving 90-degree temperatures on the picket line in front of the store on Wednesday, the third day of the strike. The workers, organized with Starbucks Workers United, officially announced the strike in a letter to management on Monday, July 18, but had already staged a sick-out the previous day. 

Starbucks baristas at 874 Commonwealth Avenue are ON STRIKE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE due to unfair labor practices. Read more in their notice to management and join us on the picket line from 9am-1pm! pic.twitter.com/pFQQRqQB3j

— Boston Starbucks Workers United (@BostonSBWU) July 18, 2022

Workers are prepared to strike for at least a week even as a massive heat wave brings high-90s temperatures to the Boston area, putting the hot in #HotLaborSummer.

The Brookline strike is part of a national strike wave of unionized Starbucks stores in the past two weeks in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Denver, Boston, Seattle, Everett, Chicago, Clinton Township, MI and Cottonwood Heights, UT.

On Tuesday workers increased the pressure, organizing a rally with an estimated 40 people present including many community supporters. At the rally the workers had a large cake to jokingly celebrate Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s birthday, and asked why he has not yet come to the bargaining table. 

Hey @HowardSchultz, we brought cake and balloons to the picket for your birthday — will this bring you to the bargaining table? #StarbucksOnStrike #HotLaborSummer pic.twitter.com/8ceh8ATXLw

— Boston Starbucks Workers United (@BostonSBWU) July 19, 2022

Nora Rossi, a shift manager at the store told Working Mass that many of the supporters have been members of other unions. Some members from Starbucks Workers United at other stores have also come out to support. There is a core group of workers who have been holding the line, while other workers who are also students and therefore in classes have rotated in and out when they can. And many passers-by have been expressing their support, including by donating to the strike fund and dropping off water and other supplies.

Moment that reinforcements arrive on the strike line – with popsicles and Gatorade. Lots of community and union support today. pic.twitter.com/6TZXK4XfwE

— Working Mass (@DSAWorkingMass) July 20, 2022

Solidarity with striking @BostonSBWU workers at 874 Comm Ave! Join us tomorrow at noon and wear your red HGSU shirts! https://t.co/AiUb3MvB4b

— Harvard Grad Students Union-UAW Local 5118 (@hgsuuaw) July 18, 2022

Pushing Back on Unfair Treatment

The Brookline store voted to unionize in June, and shortly thereafter they were assigned a new store manager. 

The manager started cutting hours for employees and said there wasn’t enough work, all while hiring five new workers. Workers at the picket line said that up through Monday when they went on strike, the manager was still interviewing candidates. Worker organizers have gotten in contact with 2 out of the 5 new hires, but don’t have contact with the last three. 

Once we unionized we realized that we can help ourselves, we can make this happen ourselves, we have that power now, we’re protected.

Nora Rossi, shift manager and member of Starbucks Workers United

In their letter, workers claim the manager, Toni Chorlian, has unilaterally changed the schedule with no notice. Under the National Labor Relations Act, management in a unionized workplace must bargain “in good faith” with a recognized union before making changes to certain mandatory subjects of bargaining, including wages and hours. Making changes to mandatory subjects of bargaining without bargaining “in good faith” is considered an unfair labor practice. 

The demands of the strike center around resolving the alleged illegal threats of termination, union busting through scheduling, and call to removes the new manager who workers allege has made racist and transphobic remarks and actions.

“The way we’ve been talked to by management and otherwise has been very demoralizing, and it’s been very hard on everyone at the store. On top of having our hours cut and being understaffed we were run ragged physically, it’s also an emotional toll every day,” said Rossi.

“We decided we cannot do this another day, we have to do something. We’d been kind of waiting for a while, like, somebody help us, somebody do something, somebody help us, and once we unionized we realized that we can help ourselves, we can make this happen ourselves, we have that power now, we’re protected.”

What will it take to win?

The newly unionized workers do have many more legal rights and collective power now that they are unionized and on strike. However, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy to stop unfair labor practices and bring Howard Shultz to the national bargaining table. 

The Brookline workers said that they need continued support from the local community and are asking for two things: donations to their strike fund so that they can continue to make rent and strike until their demands are met, and for supporters to sign up for morning and overnight shifts to hold the picket line in order to stop deliveries.

Support the strike! pic.twitter.com/ZWIvBIVh8z

— Working Mass (@DSAWorkingMass) July 20, 2022

Deliveries are usually made between 3-5 in the afternoon, but the company is able to change the delivery time of the Teamsters-staffed logistics companies to arrive in the middle of the night. Teamsters are contractually protected against crossing picket lines, but only if the picket line is physically in place. If the delivery workers show up at 1 am with deliveries and there’s no picket line, they won’t have a “legitimate” reason to say they couldn’t deliver.

State Representative and Boston DSA member Erika Uyterhoven joined an overnight picket line shift at 9:00 pm Wednesday night and urged supporters to sign up for a shift to block deliveries. 

Join us on the picket line at 874 Comm Ave standing in solidarity with ⁦@BostonSBWU⁩! #mapoli

Sign up to support the 24-hour picket here: https://t.co/dLdpk7NGFw pic.twitter.com/R7wQkbIF6Q

— Erika Uyterhoeven (@erika4rep) July 21, 2022

The nationally coordinated strike wave at Starbucks demonstrates the fighting mood of these newly-unionized workers. In struggle, the workers are realizing their collective power.

But will one store on strike in Boston be enough to get the manager fired? Or do Boston café workers need to follow Seattle’s lead by having all Boston area cafes striking at the same time? Whatever the answer, socialists and community supporters will be there every step of the way!

Agnes Smedley is a member of Boston DSA and a coffee worker at a local Boston coffee chain, writing under a pen-name to protect their on-going organizing efforts

City Feed Workers Seek First Contract

Wed, 2022-07-20 16:20

By Michael Gutierrez

Jamaica Plain: Workers at the grocery store City Feed & Supply voted to form a union this past June. The vote came on the heels of an outpouring of local support and rode the wave of a national unionizing trend in business sectors not traditionally associated with union representation. 

The vote was certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), mandating formal recognition of their union City Feed Unite (CFU), an affiliate of the Boston Industrial Workers of the World (Boston IWW).

Formal recognition means that ownership is mandated to recognize the CFU as the collective bargaining unit of its workforce. A hiring freeze, overwork, and a schedule that generates wait times and subpar service due to understaffing high-volume periods are among the chief concerns of CFU workers. But as many newly unionized shops are discovering, pushing bosses to respect labor law requires the same militancy as does unionizing in the first place. 

The workers at City Feed celebrated the union win, while realizing that more work is yet to be done. As reported in the Boston Compass,

“It’s proof that all the time they spent having one on one conversations with people actually worked,” said one CFU-affiliated IWW organizer, who asked not to be named in order to protect future employment security. “They were able to change their coworkers minds’ substantially.”

Regarding the 20-10 City Feed vote, Spooner [a City Feed worker and organizer] acknowledged that in addition to the 10 votes cast against unionizing, several employees did not cast a ballot. He said this should be taken as a sign that more work is to be done in ensuring all voices are included in the union’s vision and development.

As the focus of CFU turns to negotiations, it seeks a good faith negotiating partner in the ownership at City Feed & Supply, David Warner and Kristine Cortese. Based on a tweet update from the CFU sent out mid-July, it appears that the rapport between CFU and ownership is suboptimal.

Although we won our union last month, workers at City Feed are consistently exhausted by tiring, understaffed shifts as a result of a freeze in hiring by upper management. pic.twitter.com/FwMeiV6Tg4

— City Feed Unite (@CityFeedUnite) July 17, 2022

While it’s important to let the negotiations play out, the CFU, Boston IWW, and the local community will be watching to see whether ownership acts in good faith during this phase of the process. Solidarity may be needed in the near future to bring community pressure to bear on City Feed ownership.

Imposing an artificial hiring freeze during busy periods is a potential union busting tactic, meant to introduce workplace stress that taxes solidarity, dampens enthusiasm for organizing, and scares off participants in the pro-union vote. Owners will embrace high turnover if it means regaining control over its workforce rather than addressing them as equals, even if it leads to a worse experience for customers. Corporate mega giants like Amazon have raised the union-busting tactic of high turnover to a fine art, and smaller business owners have taken note.

The ownership of City Feed & Supply did not respond to a request for comment.

You can follow CFU and the Boston IWW on Twitter to stay up-to-date on the struggle for a fair contract at City Feed.

Michael Gutierrez is a Boston DSA member, on Twitter as @taco2day.

Article originally published at Hump Day News.

Boston Teachers Union Reaches Tentative Agreement

Thu, 2022-07-14 17:41

By Henry De Groot

*7/15 – Article has been updated to clarify the rate of proposed pay increases.

Tentative Agreement Announced at AFT Convention

This morning, Boston Teachers Union (BTU) President Jessica Tang announced that the union had reached a tentative agreement with the City of Boston. BTU members have been working for 11 months without contract.

A tentative agreement (TA) is a proposed contract reached between an employer and a union’s negotiating team. Tang’s proposed contract will go before BTU members for a ratification vote. If ratified, the contract will be voted on by the Boston School Committee.

Mayor Wu and Boston Teachers Union announce new contract agreement https://t.co/iNzVptc2im

— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) July 14, 2022

According to Tang, the agreement “makes strides toward establishing that inclusive and intentional approach that the frontline educators of the BTU have advocated for, along with taking other key steps to improve the conditions of our school buildings and to create more family-friendly work policies.”

Tang made the announcement at the 87th American Federation of Teachers (AFT) biennial convention, currently in progress at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

AFT president Randi Weingarten spoke in support of the proposed contract from the convention floor.

“I am proud and thrilled to have such an innovative and progressive agreement announced at the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers,” said Weingarten. “The theme of this year’s convention is ‘Reclaim our Future’ and this contract will help students, families, and educators do exactly that by taking huge steps forward to promote inclusion and create improved learning and working conditions throughout the Boston Public Schools.”

Great way to kick off the ⁦@AFTunion⁩ convention by hearing from the Mayor of Boston about the new contract for the Boston Teachers Union, ⁦@BTU66⁩, and the respect she has for educators. Congrats Jessica Tang and the BTU! #ReclaimOurFuture pic.twitter.com/f83j01sTCV

— Bob Morgenstern (@MorgyWV) July 14, 2022

The contract comes during a period of crisis for the Boston Public Schools district. Only two weeks ago the district appointed a new superintendent after Superintendent Brenda Casselius resigned midway through the year. BPS also narrowly avoided being placed in state receivership by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), agreeing to a strict improvement plan that begins this month.

Proposed Contract Details

In a press release, BTU described the proposed contract as taking “major steps forward on key district inclusion policies and practices.”

After countless hours of organizing, mobilizing and negotiating, we are pleased to share that as of this morning, BTU has reached a tentative agreement with the BPS School Committee and the City of Boston on our multi-year contract.https://t.co/BLuikGBKRQ

— BostonTeachersUnion (@BTU66) July 14, 2022

“Specifically, the parties agreed to key overhauls in the district’s approach to special education in order to better meet student and family needs, including targeted reductions in class sizes and taking a collaborative approach to assessing the needs of students who have individualized education plans (IEPs) and/or who are English Learners. Restructuring inclusion policy in the schools has been a shared priority of Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Teachers Union.”

Additional contract details laid out in the press release include:

Academic Supports – BPS is committed to ensuring that all students have the needed academic support within the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework, in which problem-solving and decision making is data driven and practiced across all levels of the educational system in order to support students.

Staff Training – The district will make additional funding commitments toward professional development around inclusion policies and best practices, including training for school leaders, special and general education teachers, related service providers, school psychologists and specialized training for coordinators of special education.

Planning Time and Input for Educators – Teacher planning time and preparation is critical and BPS will ensure that all teachers have adequate time to develop lesson plans collaboratively. Together, BPS and BTU will ensure that decisions regarding IEPs are made through a team process consistent with state and federal law.

Inclusive Education Liaison – For school years 2022-2023 to 2026-2027, the parties will fund an Inclusive Education Liaison who will play a critical role in implementing the shared vision of an inclusive district.

Paid Parental Leave – Expanding the City of Boston’s family leave policy to all education staff, including some positions within BPS that were previously excluded.

Green New Deal – Provides greater transparency regarding facilities work orders in BPS buildings to improve classroom conditions.

Housing Support – The agreement includes a commitment by the City to provide key housing support to unhoused families including a related pilot program.

Compensation Improvements – The agreement includes wage increases of 2.5% each year over three years with an addendum that will ultimately yield an additional 2% in overall wages over the life of the three-year pact.

A Test For BTU, Boston Leadership

If ratified, the contract will be a significant victory for Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s new administration, as well as Tang’s “BTU for All” leadership team. The close relationship between Mayor Wu and President Tang is exemplified in the BTU’s press release, which quotes heavily from Wu. Mayor Wu also spoke in favor of the agreement at the AFT convention this morning. 

@MayorWu talking about being a mother of children in PUBLIC SCHOOLS in Boston @AFTunion convention.

She gave appreciation to the Boston teachers union and did not separate the teachers from their union.

Can you imagine a mayor like this, Chicago? I can. #1u #ReclaimOurFuture pic.twitter.com/x15HTayNCZ

— Michelle Gunderson (@MSGunderson) July 14, 2022

But just hours after the announcement, some BTU members were already expressing their frustration with the contract. According to one informed source, concerns include the proposed concessions to the district on most of the union’s initial demands, as well as BTU leadership’s behavior during the negotiation process.

Some members are worried that the new contract’s language on crucial issues like inclusion policy and class size is too weak to protect educators from the kind of working conditions that have caused massive teacher burnout over the last two years. On top of that, rank-and-file educators were prevented from observing key parts of the final bargaining session yesterday, as union leadership pushed heavily to “get the contract done.” 

Whether or not these concerns will affect the outcome of the ratification vote remains to be seen. But inflation will likely play a role. In a Facebook post, Tang clarified that raises in the contract, when including the “inclusion differential” “makes it actually 3, 3.5, 3 with one year retro so it’s actually 9.5% compounded over the next two years.” (*We originally reported that the contract offers a 2.5 percent annual raise). But just yesterday a report by the Labor Department showed that consumer inflation reached an annualized rate of 9.1 percent, a four-decade high. Wage increases that do not keep up with inflation represent a cut in workers’ real incomes. 

If the ratification process does develop into a contested vote, it will be a significant test for President Tang’s five-year leadership. Tang was unavailable to comment on this story.

Both national teachers’ unions – the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association – have been host to some of the most developed “rank-and-file” opposition movements, backed by socialists and progressives. Several opposition movements have won control of important teachers unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union, United Teachers Los Angeles, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association, the largest union in the Commonwealth.

In the last few years, the Boston Teachers Union has largely avoided serious contests between union leadership and representatives of the national “rank-and-file” movement. But this tentative agreement could change that.

Henry De Groot is a member of Boston DSA and an editor of Working Mass.

Picture Credit: BTU Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/bostonteachersunion/posts/5505273146158917