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Schultz: "Unions are Not the Answer"

Independent Presidential candidate Howard Schultz will deliver this nation four more years of Trump

Kris LaGrange's picture
Feb 04, 2019

On last week’s 60 Minutes, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said that he was considering running for President as an independent. In the immediate aftermath of his announcement, many Democrats began pushing him to either run as a Democrat or stay out of the race. This is because even if he got just a few percents of the vote in important swing states like Florida, Wisconsin or Pennsylvania he could cost the Democratic nominee the election. Here was one response from TakeItBack.org:

I just watched the most disturbing thing on TV that I’ve seen in years. And I’m not kidding, either. Last week on 60 Minutes, multi-billionaire former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz made it clear that he’s very likely to run for president as an Independent.  That’s right, as an Independent.  And if he does, he almost certainly will re-elect Donald Trump, pure and simple.  Why? Because if Schultz’ candidacy divides the anti-Trump voters into two parts then we lose, game, set and match. Trump, who is certainly the worst president in American history, will win.

Consider Donald Trump having four more years to:

  • appoint more right-wing justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, and to the federal judiciary at large.
  • continue his assault on our environment and denial of climate change.
  • pass more deficit-busting tax breaks for billionaires, destroy Medicare and further gut the Affordable Care Act.
  • build walls, separate children from their parents, and shutdown the government.

Just think about it. Think about the utter and complete destruction that Donald Trump will wreak on all facets of American life if he’s re-elected. The only good news is that Schultz says he hasn’t completely made up his mind whether to run, so we have a very tight window within which to act.

For union members, the fact that he would hand Trump a second term isn’t the only reason why you should oppose Schultz. As the former CEO of Starbucks, his record on labor issues leaves a lot to be desired. In 2009, the newly Democratic Congress was considering the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) commonly known as card check. This was an important piece of legislation for labor unions as it would allow a newly organizes workplace to file signature cards for recognition instead of having to hold a secret ballot election. While the bill looked like it would pass, Schultz along with Whole Foods and Costco’s CEO’s stepped in to offer a “compromise” bill. The compromise got rid of card check, but streamlined union elections and increased penalties for union busting. Of course, this proposal failed and gummed up the whole process leading to no bill and no new protections for unions.

“I remember it was like someone was trying to be extremely unhelpful,” recalled Jody Calemine, a Democratic staffer on the House labor committee at the time told the Huffington Post. “It went over like a lead balloon. People quickly went back to trying to figure this out.”

This wasn’t Schultz’ first run-in with unions. When he took over Starbucks in the 1980s there were about 120 employees who were members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). In 1987, with the support of Schultz, a decertification campaign occurred and 5 years later the union was ousted from Starbucks.

Schultz even wrote in his 1999 memoir “Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built A Company One Cup At A Time,” that “I was convinced that under my leadership, employees would come to realize that I would listen to their concerns. If they had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union.”

In 2004, Starbucks faced another union campaign, this time by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). After the Starbucks Workers Union filed for elections in New York, Schultz sent out a company-wide voicemail that was also transcribed and posted in stores saying how disturbed and disappointed he was that a group of baristas at a store in New York had decided to form a union. After the message was sent, the union lost support and the vote never happened.

Instead, Schultz fought the union effort in court. Testimony in the cases that were brought before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) revealed that executives under Schultz held one on one captive audience meetings with pro-union employees and transferred pro-management employees into stores that were organizing. In 2008, an administrative judge found that the company broke several laws in preventing their workers from organizing including firing employees for their union activity. However, Schultz wouldn’t let it go and appealed eventually winning in federal court.

30+ years after taking over Starbucks and pushing his employees to decertify their union, Schultz wants working men and women to elect him President. While some candidates might change their positions to become more palatable to the voters, Schultz is continuing with his anti-union rhetoric. On Wednesday’s Morning Joe, Schultz was asked what he would do to rebuild unions as a way to address growing income inequality. He responded saying “Unions have a role to play, but unions are not the answer.” I think we can speak for the entire union movement when we say to Schultz, you may have a role to play but you are not the answer to ending the national nightmare that is Donald Trump.

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