Cycling is not a Crime

While cruising around the internet I found a rather disterbing (though in no way surprising) artical [originaly posted on BikePortland] about anti-cycling/unfair labor practices at Starbucks (better known in these parts as "Star-sucks")

I suppose that, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I have way too much experience with the Seattle-based coffee conglomerant to be discribed as unbiased. Although I have never worked for this mega corperation, between my involvment with local unions and the Starbucks employees I have known over the years, I have to say that the following story is not even the most shocking example of unfair labor practices at the company, only the most recent. It is all too easy for me to imagine that a company that berated a father for being with his infant son in the critical care wing of the hospital during a familiy emergancy, rather than filling his shift, would do something exactly like this:

Fabian Mills has the kind of boyish good looks and well kept appearence that flies in the face of the Gen-X stereo-type and sets him appart from the slacker sub-culture. His enthusiasm and work ethic allowed him to progress from being a lowly barista at Starbucks to managing their store on 102nd and Halsey near the Gateway Transit Center. In his 2 1/2 years with the company, he never once had a bad performance review and profits were up at his store after he became manager.

Back in August he rode his bike to a district meeting and got a surprising reaction from his new district manager, Frances Ericson. According to Mills, Erickson "pulled me aside and said she would prefer that I drove to the meeting. She asked me if I even had a car and then said it was inappropriate to ride my bike. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing but she actually said she would prefer if I drove a car and that it was unprofessional to ride a bike to work.”

Four days later Ericson transferred Mills to a store in Troutdale at 257th and Stark. Mills was unhappy with the decision because the transfer would add 16 miles to his daily bike commute. When Mills expressed his disappointment with the move, Ericson said, “you should just get over riding your bike.”

Mills filed a formal complaint with the human resources and business ethics departments at Starbucks, Ericson claimed she moved him because of his poor job performance, despite the fact that all of Mill's performance reviews had been possitive and profits were up at his store. Mills has since moved on to a job at Bank of America.

This is a sad comentary on a company that claims to want to be a positive influence on the communiites it moves into. The City of Portland is actively encouraging businesses to support alternative forms of transpotation, including biking to work. Last month over 6,000 Portlanders from 550 companies, including NIKE and other mega corperations, took part in the BTA’s Bike Commute Challenge. Starbucks did NOT participate.


Jennifer said...

Well, sh*t. I've been supplementing my coffee-club coffee with Starbucks from the grocer. I just won't be able to do that now. Luckily, my grocer has recently added a very good organic free-trade coffee to its shelves, so I know what I will buy, but I will also have too persuade the other coffee drinkers in my house to start patronizing the OTHER coffee joints in town when they need a mocha-java-latte-frappe-doubleshot or whatever the heck it is twenty-somethings buy at Starbucks when they need a caffeine sugar fix.


I suspected as much. After all, there's a Starbucks in the restroom of every Starbucks these days, and that doen't happen when the business model is about repect and fairness or anything else holy. It was good in the beginning, and then it turned into a money-thing.


Let the boycott begin!

westwind said...

Sad, isn't it. It ought to be possible for a company to thrive while being a positive force in the lives of their employees as well as the life of the community. Somebody ought to try it some time.

In the mean time there are some great coffees out there, and I have discovered that the beans that come from local roasters are far superior to anything shipped in.
Think of it as a epicurean adventure!

I dont know if it is available in your neck of the woods, but Nossa Familia ( makes fantastic coffee, contributes to awsome causes, and activelly supports cycling (here in Oregon they support SHIFT, in addition to other cool groups)