News & Commentary

February 26, 2020

Hospitality workers union UNITE HERE released a report on Tuesday on working conditions in Starbucks locations managed by HMS Host, an airport and highway food service company that has maintained exclusive rights to operate Starbucks stores in airports throughout North America since 1991. The report, based on surveys of Starbucks workers at 29 airports, finds that 32% of those workers were unable to pay their rent in the past year, and that some had experienced homelessness, had slept at the airports in which they work, and had been unable to afford food. The report also finds that the median wage paid to Black Starbucks workers by HMS Host was $1.85 less than that paid to white workers; that in multiple airports LGBTQ workers reported offensive and transphobic comments from managers, as well as harassment and misgendering; and that more than one in four immigrant workers had been told to stop speaking their preferred language at work. The report includes a copy of a memo from HMS Host to its employees, informing them that company policy requires them to speak English while clocked in for work, including while communicating with other employees and making personal phone calls. In an email to the Guardian, an HMS Host spokesperson denied the report’s findings, claiming that “Unite Here continues to spread false information about HMS Host with the sole objective of exerting pressure and gaining leverage.” UNITE HERE plans to distribute leaflets at Starbucks across the U.S. to pressure the company to remedy the report’s findings.

The New York Times reports on divisions between NFL players and owners, and within the players’ union, over the terms of a proposed collective bargaining agreement. Team owners voted last week to approve a ten-year contract that would add an extra game to the regular season. In exchange for the extra game, owners have agreed to share an additional 1.5 percent of revenue with players, and to expand rosters, increase minimum salaries, reduce full-contact practices and preseason games, enhance medical and pension benefits, and implement more lenient marijuana testing. While the executive director of the players’ union has urged players to approve the contract, many veteran players object that their season is already too long and dangerous, and that the addition of an extra game is not worth the owners’ concessions. But for the younger and lower-paid players at the fringe of the game, who make up the bulk of union membership, the contract may prove more enticing. Or not—it also includes a clause that would likely force players to file workers’ compensation claims with an arbitrator, rather than in court. If the contract is approved by two-thirds of the union’s 32-member board of player representatives, it will be put to the full membership body of players for final approval.

ProPublica reports that the FBI is investigating the theft of over $500,000 from the El Paso branch of the National Border Patrol Council. The investigation comes after years of rumors of embezzlement at the El Paso local, which represents more than 1,400 Border Patrol employees across Texas and New Mexico. It also adds to evidence of persistent illegal conduct by Border Patrol employees; over the past five years, hundreds of Border Patrol agents have been arrested on charges ranging from drunken driving to murder. While the head of the National Border Patrol Council claims that there is no evidence of financial misconduct by the El Paso local’s current leadership, some Border Patrol agents in El Paso suspect that money is still being mismanaged.

In an op-ed published on Sunday, Teen Vogue recognizes the contributions of Black women to the U.S. labor movement, including Rosina Tucker, who helped organize the first AFL-CIO-recognized Black labor union; Dora Lee Jones, who helped establish the Domestic Workers’ Union; Lucy Parsons, who helped found the International Working People’s Association, the Industrial Workers of the World, and Chicago’s Working Women’s Union No. 1; Dorothy Lee Bolden, who founded the National Domestic Workers Union of America; and the Washerwomen of Jackson, MS, who founded the state’s first labor union, in 1866.




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