Wednesday, August 30, 2006

FAIR TRADE INDEED

Every so often I see a story that leaves me flummoxed. For whom do I root? It's like when Notre Dame and Michigan play in football. There is not an obvious lesser evil in that game.

I saw such a story today. Apparently Starbuck's workers in Logan Square joined a union. Really. Click on the link. The Industrial Workers of the World Starbucks Workers Union. Really. "Baristas" are "industrial workers" in our postmodern economy. They seem like service workers to me, but what do I know? Anyway, the Starbuck's Union is demanding the following (per their web page):
  • Increased pay and raises (from $7.50/hr. to start to $10-WAYLA)
  • Guaranteed hours with the option of fulltime status
  • An end to understaffing
  • A healthier and safer workplace

The unionists also noted that Starbuck's apparently insures 42% of their workers, while Wal-Mart ensures 47% of its workers.

So, here's my problem. Starbuck's is very proud and loud about its "good coffee, doing good" ethos, as evidenced here. However, I think their coffee is crap. I will give them credit for the proliferation of independent cafes in many cities, but their cookie cutter approach to their stores effectively makes it necessary to go to an independent coffee purveyor just to figure out where you are. On balance, I have very little use for Starbuck's. On the other hand, when I am in a Starbuck's the "baristas" are too often snotty little shit-wits with run-of-the-mill piercings and tattoos. It makes me want to slap the taste of the mouths of the "baristas" who roll their eyes when I order a medium latte. You know damned well and good what "medium" is. It is the size between the smallest and biggest. At $4.00 a cup, I'll call it whatever I want. The tip jar they put out is the last straw for me. This joint is McDonald's with less selection and I'm supposed to tip someone for rolling their eyes at me?

So I guess you can see that I am torn. Seeing Starbuck's getting it stuck to them would be sweet. However, having the "baristas" I encounter do it would suck. So, Starbuck's, no more lecturing me about fair trade coffee until you insure your workers ("fair trade" or "eternal servitude to Starbuck's" is a rant for another post). "Baristas," please keep in mind that jobs where you stand behind a counter and have to wear a name tag are not generally considered "good" or "high skill" jobs. As such, it is unlikely that you will get $10/hour and great health insurance in one of those jobs anytime soon.

3 Comments:

Anonymous F said...

The problem with Starbucks is that the company's ubiquity has made it hard for old, local, neighborhood coffee houses to stay in business. Or, the competition comes down to being yet another chain, such as Caribou Coffee. In all of ED, there's but one joint that brews Julius Meinl, and that's way over in Hfpshfupxo. Near the Xijuf Ipvtf is old ME Swing's (17th and G Streets), where they still roast the beans daily on the premises and you can sit at a proper counter over looking the street and drink your coffee from a...real cup. Starbucks has become my grudging default, either that or, pardon my French, Au Bon Pain.

Send coffee,
F

8:07 AM  
Blogger David said...

I hate to disagree with someone as esteemed as F, but I think that Strabuck's has done more to create the local neighborhood coffee shops than to destroy them. In most places, before Starbuck's you went to a diner if you wanted to be able to sit and drink coffee.

That being said, the economics of running a coffee house don't seem very good to me. I am not sure how many $3 cups of coffee you have to sell an hour to make money, but I suspect it is too many. Thus, I suspect that most local coffee shops were created by Starbuck's, and may be killed by Starbuck's.

By the way, the next time you are in the Chi, there is a Julius Meinl cafe at Southport and Addison, down the street from Wrigley. Good spot. Get the melange and a cheesey spaetzle.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Pat said...

Eh, fuck Starbucks. The rest of the country can have its gentrified $4 coffee, but I'm stickin' with Red Rose tea at $1.39 for 100 bags.

9:11 AM  

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