Starbucks Workers Union members are complaining about working conditions at the company.

Some Starbucks employees are charging that the gourmet coffee giant is grinding them down with oppressive working conditions.

The ubiquitous chain is defending itself before the National Labor Relations Board against 30 unfair labor practice charges levied by the Starbucks Workers Union.

Starbucks, however, called the charges "baseless allegations."

The union, which is based in a one-room office in Long Island City and is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World, alleges that Starbucks engaged in unfair terminations, union-busting and a campaign of surveillance waged by managers on union members - charges the company vehemently denies.

"We don't think people should spend their hard-earned money on a company that has no respect for its workers," said union organizer Daniel Gross, 28, outside the Manhattan courtroom where the hearings are taking place.

"Any time workers organized, the company responded with a vicious anti-union campaign," Gross added.

The charges stem from incidents at four Starbucks locations in the city. The labor relations panel, an independent federal agency that mediates labor disputes, found enough merit in 30 of the union charges to take the company to court.

"We provide a safe workplace for all our partners," said company spokeswoman Tara Darrow. "We call all our employees partners because we feel strongly that they're part of the company. We provide our partners with a total pay package that we believe is very competitive, great pay and great benefits."

Starbucks was brought before the federal labor panel last year as well.

Former Starbucks employee Sarah Bender, 24, was awarded nearly $1,700 as part of a March 7, 2006, settlement with the company after she was fired in May 2005 for union activity.

Bender said she's not surprised the coffee giant is in trouble with the board again.

"I'd like for Starbucks to follow labor law," she said.

The hearings, which began in July and adjourned on Friday for a three-week recess, are expected to conclude in late September.

"We're hoping for a quantifiable shift in how management treats workers," said Peter Montalbano, 24, another union organizer, who is currently employed by the company and who was also part of the March 2006 settlement. "I think we're improving the lives of Starbucks employees."

"We're a very low-cost union with no frills, and dues are affordable," said Gross. "Before we had a voice, Starbucks could get away with anything.



 http://www.starbucksunion.org/node/1861