Day 11 ~ 31 Days of Pandas

Seasonal Drinks

Those who know some of my history know that in the mid to late 1980’s I worked for Starbucks Coffee, when it it was just a local Seattle coffee emporium, before some guy named Howard got his hands on it and um…made it what it is today. (You can interpret that any way you’d like).

I’ve been amused/annoyed/encouraged to read of the unionizing efforts of some of the retail Starbucks stores in the Buffalo NY area. Encouraged, because I think that workers demanding a fair workplace with livable wages is a good thing and I’m glad to know that these workers are standing up for their rights.

Amused, because I know it is probably driving Howard batshit to have workers puncturing his carefully crafted image of himself as the benevolent corporate overlord, and (failed) presidential candidate.

And annoyed, because the organizers and the reporters keep referring to this as the first attempt at unionization at Starbucks.


Somewhere around 1986 or ’87, the actual first union at Starbucks organized and was formed, starting at the roasting plant and then including the Seattle stores. It was not easy. We had great assistance from UFCW local 1001 in the persons of Jerry Patterson, Janet Boyd, Dave Schmidt, and Pam Blauman. I still consider them friends today. (Dave died this year from cancer and the world is a poorer place without him) They helped us navigate the treacherous waters that Starbucks flung in our path.

We had just (finally) negotiated our first contract when Howard bought out the company. He immediately dragged us back to the bargaining table to negotiate a new contract, despite telling us he wouldn’t do that, before the sale of the company. It got so nasty, that I left a few months later, as soon as the new contract was done. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, so, um…thanks?

Note: the union only lasted a few years at the roasting plant, and less at the stores, but we were the first union there. Just so ya know!

Anyway, my experience there has inspired several ‘toons, including this one!

whipped cream
Can I have EXTRA extra whipped cream?

Don’t forget to ask for extra whippy cream!

Be the Bear!
Bob T Panda

6 thoughts on “Day 11 ~ 31 Days of Pandas

  1. JoAnn

    Anne, this is “brilliant “ and so timely! I’ve been following the Starbucks barista situation and I’m excited for them.

    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      I’m excited for them too, and a little scared they (the employees) don’t realize the battle is only half won. Or maybe they do. I don’t know how we would have gotten through the process of negotiating the contract without our excellent union reps. And they are so much more corporate and willing to put high priced legal power behind intimidating the workers. Sounds like it was a nasty fight. I just wish they would acknowledge that WE were the first union at Starbucks. That’s kind of annoying.

  2. Linda Lawrence

    I’ve always preferred the bottled Starbucks mocha Frappuccino. But somehow i recently discovered McD’s mocha frappé when I want a treat or am on the road. Have to admit I skip the w hippy cream but DO ask for extra chocolate drizzle. Yum.

  3. Nancy

    Thanks for sharing your story about the first actual union at Starbucks. I wish the current organizers all the luck in the world. We need more unions, not fewer.

    1. Panda in Chief Post author

      I wish them a lot of luck too. As hard as Starbucks made it on the organizing/voting phase, they really raked our asses over the coals when we negotiated the contract. Then we had to do it all over again after Howard bought the company. It just really pisses me off that none of the news outlets are abandoning the message that this is the first.


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