WSLC Online - Home

Contact
What's New
Upcoming Events
WSLC Reports Today
President's Column
2000 Resolutions
Who We Are
Why Join a Union?
Legislative Issues
Political Education
Site Map

 

 

 

 

June 22, 2010


June 21: Advocates seek stronger OSHA

June 18: SCOTUS sides with employers

June 17: 'This is no time to let up'

RSS 2.0 feed 

 Updated DAILY... Almost Every Day!ô by 9 a.m. Pacific
Links are functional at date of posting, but sometimes expire.
How are we doing? -- E-mail your feedback to our staff!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Union-buster Howard Schultz is Pacific NW's highest-paid CEO

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz -- the guy who sold out Seattle by giving away its SuperSonics to a bunch of Oklahoma City yahoos -- is now the highest paid CEO in the Pacific Northwest. The $15 million he got paid in 2009 is more than the the CEOs of Microsoft, Boeing, Nike, Weyerhaeuser... all of them. And the truth is, Schultz collected tens of millions more than that last year by exercising stock options. 

What's even more deplorable about Howard Schultz's embarrassment of riches as the rest of us suffer through the Great Recession is that Schultz has achieved it by aggressively and illegally denying his employees the freedom to choose whether they want to form a union. Howard Schultz is not only the highest-paid CEO in the Pacific Northwest, he's the poster boy for why the Employee Free Choice Act is necessary in America.... now more than ever.  Read more.

 

News of America:

►  At Huffington Post -- Invest in America's future (by SPEEA's Stan Sorscher) -- One consequence of globalization has been to de-couple workers' success from the success of their employers. It is no longer enough, just for business to be "competitive." We also need workers to share in the success that businesses will enjoy. ... In policy terms, rising wages should be an explicit, clearly-stated goal, directly coupled to "making business succeed." (Read and share this!)

►  At Huffington Post -- USW-UWEA "Partnership for Progress:" This is what America should be about (Leo Hindery column) -- The United Steelworkers union and the American Wind Energy Association have joined forces in the belief that large-scale deployment of wind energy facilities is vital to this nation's energy security; this deployment should be aligned with the development and utilization of components from American Original Equipment Manufacturers; and this burgeoning sector can create high-quality, skilled American jobs at every level of the wind energy industry, from manufacturing to assembly and through to transmission.

►  In today's NY Times -- Poll finds deep concern about energy, economy -- Overwhelmingly, Americans think the nation needs a fundamental overhaul of its energy policies, and most expect alternative forms to replace oil as a major source within 25 years. Yet a majority are unwilling to pay higher gas prices to help develop new fuel sources.

►  MUST-READ in today's NY Times -- When greatness slips away (Bob Herbert column) -- The collapse of the economy in the Great Recession gave us the starkest, most painful evidence imaginable of the failure of laissez-faire economics and the destructive force of the alliance of big business and government against the interests of ordinary Americans. 

Radical change was called for. But there has been no radical change, only caution and timidity and more of the same. The royalists remain triumphant and working people are absorbing blow after devastating blow. More than 1.2 million of the long-term jobless are due to lose their unemployment benefits this month.

We are submitting to this debacle with the same pathetic lack of creativity and helpless mind-set that now seems to be the default position of Americans in the 21st century. We have become a nation that is good at destroying things -- with wars overseas and mind-bogglingly self-destructive policies here at home -- but that has lost sight of how to build and maintain a flourishing society. Weíre dismantling our public school system and, incredibly, attacking our spectacularly successful system of higher education, which is the finest in the world.

How is it possible that we would let this happen? Weíve got all kinds of sorry explanations for why we canít do any of the things we need to do. The Democrats canít get 60 votes in the Senate. Our budget deficits are too high. Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck might object.

Meanwhile, the greatness of the United States, which so many have taken for granted for so long, is steadily slipping away.

 

State government news:

Click to enlarge►  At HA Seattle -- State's tax "burden" well below national average -- This chart above plots Washington state and local taxes as a percentage of personal income from 1977 through 2008, and compares it to the national average of the 49 other states. As you can see, state taxes as a percentage of the total economy is near a 30-year low at the moment, after plummeting dramatically from the mid-1990s. Also note that our state and local tax ďburdenĒ is also well below the national average, and has been for more than a decade.

►  At SeattlePI.com -- Oregon governor to challenge state employee pay, benefits -- As local and state governments continue to run up huge deficits, the Democratic political establishment in Washington state has been reluctant to directly take on public labor unions about pay and benefits. Down in Oregon, Gov. Ted Kulongoski appears ready duke it out with his unions by introducing his government "reset" recommendations later this week.

 

Election news:

►  At TheOlympian.com -- BIAW schedules year's first initiative turn-in -- The BIAW says it doesn't have all the signatures yet and are still collecting for I- 1082 (to privatize the public non-profit workers' compensation system), but they expect to turn them in on July 2.

Learn more about this job-killing hostile takeover of our state's workers' compensation system.

►  In today's News Tribune -- Sen. Roach's road to victory goes through two legislative districts -- Sen. Pam Roach is being criticized for locating her district office in the 47th District, instead of the one she represents, the 31st. Turns out the office Roach just opened at 311 Auburn Ave. in Auburn is about six blocks outside the 31st District. Roach calls the attack ďnit-picking.Ē

 

Local news:

►  In the (Aberdeen) Daily World -- Port of Grays Harbor sells land to Wal-Mart -- Port of Grays Harbor commissioners approved the sale of seven acres of waterfront property to Wal-Mart on Friday in a quiet deal to expand the East Aberdeen store. Port officials held a short public hearing that morning to carry out the sale. They had advertised the meeting in legal notices, but did not mention the sale of the property to Wal-Mart. One commissioner said Wal-Mart officials asked the Port to keep the negotiations quiet until an agreement was settled.

►  In today's Kitsap Sun -- Kitsap commissioners to public: "Can we talk taxes?" -- The county has steered clear of a tax increase over the past four years, but the budget situation keeps getting bleaker. Recession-related revenue losses and cumulative effects of the 1% annual limit on property tax increases resulted in $8 million in budget cuts over the past four years, which included staffing cuts, furloughs and closing the county administration building on Fridays.

►  In today's Yakima H-R -- Yakima County cuts -- 10 layoffs expected -- Barring changes after a public hearing today, Yakima County commissioners are expected to approve cuts that will eliminate 16 full- and part-time positions, including 10 people who will lose their jobs.

►  In today's Bellingham Herald -- City officials gets data on skyrocketing health benefit costs -- The City of Bellingham's $23 million cost of employee benefits is expected to jump to $38 million by 2015 at a time of severely decreased revenues. City officials say they're not sure of a solution.

►  In today's Seattle Times -- Funding OK'd for South Park bridge project -- With closure of the South Park Bridge only nine days away, the Metropolitan King County Council voted Monday to authorize the sale of $31 million in bonds to pay part of the cost of a new one.

 

National news:

►  In today's LA Times -- Pressure rising on health care long before overhaul takes effect -- Despite passage of the landmark overhaul, the existing health system is continuing to fray, raising the prospect that the country could experience a crisis before the law establishes a new safety net in 2014.

►  In today's NY Times -- As law takes effect, Obama gives insurers a warning -- The president, whose vilification of insurers helped push a landmark health care overhaul through Congress, plans to sternly warn industry executives at a White House meeting on Tuesday against imposing hefty rate increases in anticipation of tightening regulation under the new law.

►  In today's LA Times -- Individual health insurance premium hikes far exceed group plan hikes -- Recent increases for individual coverage average 20%, according to a Kaiser Foundation survey.

►  In today's Seattle Times -- Gays will get leave to care for partner's sick child -- President Obama will expand the rights of gay workers by allowing them to take family and medical leave to care for sick or newborn children of same-sex partners, officials say. Under a 1993 law, people who work for a company with 50 or more employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn or for a spouse, son or daughter with "a serious health condition."

 

TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2010
Union-buster Howard Schultz is Pacific NW's highest-paid CEO

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz -- the guy who sold out Seattle by giving away its SuperSonics to a bunch of Oklahoma City yahoos -- is now the highest paid CEO in the Pacific Northwest. The $15 million he got paid in 2009 is more than the the CEOs of Microsoft, Boeing, Nike, Weyerhaeuser... all of them. And the truth is, Schultz collected tens of millions more than that last year by exercising stock options.  

In September 2009, with Starbucks earnings and shares in the toilet, Shultz spoke of "the shared sacrifice I want to make" as he vowed to take almost no salary for the rest of the year. But as the Seattle Times reported last week, Schultz not only took in $15 million in total cash and equity pay in 2009, he cashed in more than $26 million in stock options from 1998 and 1999. Meanwhile, the company awarded him a new package of stock options in November 2008 that are now worth $46.8 million.

So what else is new, right? Some overpaid corporate executive continues to get super-rich -- in his case by buying coffee for about $1.50 a pound and selling it for $10 a pound -- while the rest of us struggle to find or keep a roof over our families' heads amid the Great Recession.

What's even more deplorable about Howard Schultz's embarrassment of riches is that he has also achieved it by aggressively and illegally denying his employees the freedom to choose whether they want to form a union. He has overseen the spending of millions of dollars on anti-union consultants and lawyers to block his employees' attempts to unionize

Even as he was becoming the richest CEO in the Pacific Northwest, his company was getting thumped by the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices, including the firing and punishing of pro-union baristas in New York, Michigan, and elsewhere around the country. And because of the lax labor laws in this country, Starbucks has been able to enter into "settlements" that avoided fines and, in most cases, even avoided admissions of wrongdoing.

Schultz has reportedly said that he takes his company's employees' efforts to unionize as a "personal insult."

CURRENT LAW SAYS workers have the right to decide for themselves -- free from threat of firing, punishment, harassment or other employer coercion -- whether they want to form a union. But the law has no teeth and is broken with relative impunity by companies like Starbucks, which has reportedly spent millions on high-priced lawyers to subvert unionization campaigns using those illegal tactics.

Here is an account -- from portfolio.com -- of the of one group of workers to form a union at a single Starbucks store:

Four years ago, a small but hardy band of baristas attempted the near-impossible task of unionizing a single Starbucks store on Madison Avenue in New York. The leader of the effort, a young firebrand named Daniel Gross, took on what he called "the myth of the socially responsible Starbucks," complaining of subsistence wages, sadistically unpredictable schedules, and understaffing. He noted that only four out of 10 Starbucks employees actually receive its vaunted health benefits -- a lower rate than at Wal-Mart -- either because, as part-time workers, they donít work the 240 hours a quarter required to qualify, or because, at between $7 and $9 an hour, they canít afford the premiums, copays, and deductibles. (A Starbucks spokesperson says itís because they have coverage from other sources and that 80 percent of its employees are covered by some kind of insurance.)

As soon as the unionization drive was announced, Schultz sent out a company≠wide email expressing his dismay and disappointment. It was almost as if his feelings had been hurt. He visited the epicenter of the unionization effort, the store on Madison Avenue where Gross worked. Gross, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, a.k.a. the Wobblies, says that when he tried talking to Schultz, he was rebuffed, though Schultz denies it. Gross was later fired.

After his visit, the I.W.W. says that Starbucks sent antiunion managers into the store and sicced high-priced lawyers from the Washington, D.C., law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld on Gross and his cohorts. The local office of the National Labor Relations Board sided with the union, filing complaints that Starbucks had engaged in numerous unfair labor practices and twice taking it to court. One case was settled; the other, which required weeks of testimony, is still pending. 

(The baristas eventually prevailed.) 

Gross and his lawyer, Stuart Lichten of Schwartz Lichten & Bright in New York, estimate that Starbucks has gone through several million dollars in legal fees to suppress the union. Even if the Wobblies had successfully unionized the Madison Avenue store, Lichten says, Starbucks could easily have shut it down; after all, there are plenty of other Starbucks stores nearby. Why then, I ask him, would the company spend so much to squelch something so weak?

Partly, Lichten says, itís to keep Gross from ever returning to Starbucks. But partly too, he adds, itís because of the bossís vanity. Under Schultzís benevolent rule, unions should be unnecessary; it is "a personal insult," he says, that anyone feels otherwise. "They also see it as retro," he adds. "Itís not new-age to have a union. Unions are for General Motors. Theyíre the 'third wave,' or whatever they call it." Schultz says he wonít talk about the matter because itís still in litigation.

Workers shouldn't face such hurdles to exercise their legal right to decide for themselves whether they should have a union. This is America. Democracy doesn't stop at the employers' door. And yet, Human Rights Watch lists the United States alongside many Third World nations as a violator of basic human rights, due to the degree to which we restrict the freedom of association and the freedom to form unions.

Each year thousands of workers in the United States are spied on, harassed, pressured, threatened, suspended, fired, deported or otherwise victimized by employers in reprisal for their exercise of the right to freedom of association. In the 1950ís, victims numbered in the hundreds each year. In 1969, the number was more than 6,000. By the 1990ís, more than 20,000 workers each year were dismissed or otherwise victims of discrimination serious enough for the government-appointed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to issue a reinstatement and ďback-payĒ or other remedial orderÖ

Howard Schultz is not only the highest-paid CEO in the Pacific Northwest, he's the poster boy for why the Employee Free Choice Act is necessary in America. Now more than ever.

 

 

Copyright © 2010 --  Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO