Pete Kendall's Socio Times: A Socionomic Commentary

April 12, 2007
Coffee Break
'Top Employer' Starbucks Has a Crack in Its Image
Four years ago, when he first donned a green apron at the Starbucks at Madison Avenue and 36th Street, Daniel Gross must have looked like any other scruffy college grad in need of a paycheck and a shave. Within a few months, though, it was clear that this Los Angeles native with the perpetual stubble was something very different: the Norma Rae of the Caramel Macchiato.

Soon after he started, Gross and some fellow baristas began to meet at each other's homes to gripe about their jobs. The pace was exhausting, the store chronically understaffed and, under Starbucks's "flexible" scheduling rules, the number of hours they worked could change week to week, leaving them unsure of how much they would earn.

Gross didn't look for a different employer. He climbed on the espresso bar waving a placard that read "UNION" -- metaphorically speaking.

Today, the Starbucks Workers Union, such as it is, is affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World and claims a "critical mass" of members at nine stores in four states, including a store in Rockville, Md. The group won't release membership numbers, but given that Starbucks has 9,401 stores in the United States and more than 128,000 "partners," as employees are known, we're not exactly talking about a massive groundswell. And to the extent that any union campaign is also a public relations battle, the fight has yet to put even a ding in Starbucks's corporate halo.

But Gross, now a 28-year-old, third-year law student at Fordham, says that Starbucks's retail-megachain-with-a-soul image is largely a sham.

"Apparently it's true that if you repeat a lie enough times, it will resonate," he says one recent afternoon in a cafeteria at Fordham. "In my opinion, when it comes to its message about its employees, this company has the greatest PR machine in the business."

The National Labor Relations Board, which has accused Starbucks of fighting dirty against the SWU by using bribery, interrogations and threats of retaliation. Most recently, it ruled on March 30 that Starbucks broke the law 30 times as it tried to push back against Gross and his fellow travelers. The company was accused of threatening to fire baristas who support the cause.
The Washington Post

April 2007
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30          

« Previous | Main Page | Next »

One Small Coffee Shop Uprising for Starbucks, a Grande Leap for Labor
Category: NEWS
By: Pete Kendall, April 12, 2007
The caffeine buzz that kept consumers tuned in to the high-energy and social imagery of bull market [is] subsiding.
The Elliott Wave Theorist, January 2007

starbuck guardsThis is not the first crack to appear in Starbucks’ bull market façade. Back in the middle of last year, the coffee house chain came under fire for selling “high-fat and high-calorie foods that can lead to heart disease, obesity and cancer,” The Elliott Wave Financial Forecast noted that it could be the start of a large-scale attack on Starbucks’ vaunted corporate image:
As EWT noted with respect to Microsoft near its all-time high in late 1999, major peaks are followed by societal attacks against the most successful corporate beneficiaries of a bull market in social mood. So it is now with the world’s biggest coffee chain. Starbucks is “in the sights of the so-called ‘food police.’ The Center for Science in the Public Interest plans to take action against the popular coffee chain” for the high-fat products it sells.

Starbucks shares have since retreated amidst a puzzling sales setback. The January issue of The Elliott Wave Theorists explained that the fall-off in demand for sugary products and caffeine drinks that were refreshment mainstays during the long bull market is a natural consequence of the emerging downtrend:
In August, Coke’s largest bottler saw a 22 percent profit decline and warned of a “difficult” third quarter. Unilever, which sells Breyer’s ice cream and Lipton tea, reported an unusual drop in ice cream and iced tea sales in Europe over the summer. Sunny Delight, an orange-flavored soft drink that is loaded with sweeteners, became a “phenomenon” after its launch in 1998. Since 2000, however, sales have fallen sharply as consumers have become “increasingly wary.” Krispy Kreme, once a “sweet deal for investors” and doughnut [and coffee] lovers alike, has lost almost 75 percent of its value over the last year. In August, Krispy Kreme reported a 56 percent drop in quarterly profits. In a similar reversal, Starbucks shares fell sharply when sales came in way under expectations. The socionomic implications of this flight are clear: the sugar rush and caffeine buzz that kept consumers tuned in to the high-energy and social imagery of bull market are subsiding because they are incompatible with bear market psychology. Bear markets are anti-fitness, so this is not a health kick. People just don’t want to feel jazzed up as much as they used to.

At this point, the effort to unionize is very limited, but, as the headline at left suggests, it represents another crack in the public image of a company that is currently ranked No. 16 on Fortune’s latest survey of best places to work. This standing should change dramatically as the bear market asserts itself. Labor strife will also spread fast. By the time the bear market is over, this little uprising, or one very much like it, will probably be remembered as the spark that re-ignited a whole new era of employer/employee strife.

Post a comment

(you may use HTML tags for style)

April 17, 2007
In His New Book, Tolkien Mines the Murky Depths of a Falling Trend
read more
April 16, 2007
Does Don Imus Cancellation Radio a Bear Market Signal?
read more
April 12, 2007
One Small Coffee Shop Uprising for Starbucks, a Grande Leap for Labor
read more
April 11, 2007
Dazzling Finish: Cars Bring Once-Boring Shades To Life
read more
April 10, 2007
T in T-Line Stands for Top
read more


HOME | WHAT IS SOCIO TIMES? | CONTRIBUTE | SEARCH    Copyright © 2024 | Privacy Policy | Report Site Issues