Madison-Area Democratic Socialists of America (MADSA) supports workers at Stone Creek Coffee in their efforts to form a union and win representation with Teamsters Local 344. At the beginning of March, Stone Creek Coffee Workers’ Union (SCCWU) announced that they had filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a union representation election. Stone Creek workers have bravely publicized their low pay, unreliable schedules, and lack of basic standards like the right to bathroom breaks as employees of a highly profitable company with plans for expansion.
SUPPORT FOR UNIONS
SSCWU is making an historic effort to organize workers in Milwaukee and Madison.
Unions are the collective voice in the workplace – without a union, employees are at the mercy of the boss for wages, hours, and benefits. The employer can fire an employee “at will” – that is, without cause. In the service industry especially, where a worker’s ‘value’ is highly gendered, employers often penalize female employees for lack of deference to men, unwillingness to tolerate sexual advances, or something as highly subjective as “bad personality”. Union representation curbs these issues by giving workers “just cause” protection – meaning you cannot be punished without showing evidence of wrongdoing.
Unionized workplaces have consistently higher wages and better benefits than non-union counterparts, they provide stability to members through an enforceable union contract that stipulates raises, schedules, and benefits. As democratic organizations run by their members, unions provide a way for employees to deliberate and come together to benefit all workers in the union. By helping to set higher standards across an industry, all workers stand to benefit from a successful union drive at Stone Creek Coffee.
SSCWU’s organizing demonstrates that these workers understand their value to Stone Creek – delivering a service – and they demand to be fairly compensated and respected for the sizeable contribution they make each and every day to the bottom line. Stone Creek workers are showing the way forward for all working people in Wisconsin fed up with being told to lower their expectations, work harder for less and deal with it.
NO UNION BUSTING!
Stone Creek management has responded to workers’ demand for a better workplace by holding “captive audience” anti-union meetings and hiring the union-busting firm, Godfrey and Kahn, to smash employee efforts. “Union avoidance” firms exploit weak laws and scheme to frustrate workers’ organizing. For Stone Creek to claim they are a small business and then hire expensive anti-union lawyers is bullshit.
Stone Creek workers should expect management will use tactics from the standard antiunion playbook to scare away support for the union. They will:
- State the union is a third-party “business” only interested in dues money,
- Claim the company does not have the money to negotiate with a union, let alone agree to its demands,
- Target individual workers and label them as “troublemakers” or “disturbed” in order to discredit their grievances, concerns, and experiences on the job,
- Tell supervisors the union will be out to get them so as to recruit lower management to fight against the union, and
- Publicize bogus “horror stories” about unionized workplaces.
MADSA condemns these actions in the strongest terms. Workers have the right to organize and should be allowed to discuss the merits of union representation free from interference from the employer. If Stone Creek Coffee management respected its workers, it would remain silent and allow workers to decide for themselves. Instead, Stone Creek Coffee appears eager for the opportunity to frighten its workforce away from involvement in the union effort or turn them against the union entirely.
Capitalism is built on exploitation: workers never get paid what their labor is worth. As individuals, workers are vulnerable and have little power to affect the social and economic conditions of their lives. Yet when workers unite together and form a union, they can fight the employer for a better share of the wealth they create.
Labor laws in the United States overwhelmingly favor the employer, making organizing efforts extremely difficult. Employer violations of labor law are treated with a slap on the wrist and do little to deter employers from interfering with workers’ rights.
Madison-Area Democratic Socialists of America supports all workers in their efforts to organize unions in order to secure living wages and benefits, establish safe working environments free of physical danger and psychological, sexual, and racial harassment, and as a means to assert greater control of their own lives. We support reforms that make it easier for workers to organize, such as Senator Sanders’ “Workplace Democracy Act”, which would go a long way towards helping workers like those at Stone Creek get a fair chance at securing union representation if they so choose.
CALL TO ACTION
Madison-Area DSA calls on working people and union supporters to contact Stone Creek Coffee management at (414) 431-2157 and tell them:
- Dismiss anti-union lawyers from Godfrey and Kahn, and use that money for the living wages Stone Creek Coffee employees deserve,
- End the union-busting campaign and cease “captive audience” meetings, and
- Recognize SSCWU (Teamsters 344) and begin negotiations so workers can see the merits of a union contract concretely.