Skip to content
Know Your Rights
Source: Infoshop News
Subject: Strategic Policy Advocacy
Type: Media Coverage

NYC Workers Fight Bosses, Rain on May Day

Despite the torrential late spring rain, thousands of workers spent their May
Day marching and rallying through the streets of Manhattan, displaying
solidarity with workers at home and abroad. New Yorkers celebrated this
international workers’ holiday with actions, events, marches and rallies,
coordinated by a number of labor unions, community associations, political
parties and non-profit organizations. In the spirit of celebration, the New York
City IWW marched on Starbucks to demand that the coffee giant treat its workers
with respect.

Beginning with a 2:00 pm a rally in the heart of Chinatown, the IWW joined
hundreds of individuals from community and labor organizations to demand “Equal
Rights for All Workers.” IWW members Stephanie Basile and Vance Hinton delivered
powerful speeches on top of the soapbox.

“May 1st is the real Labor Day. They want us to forget that, but we’ll never
forget. It was through collective action that those before us made the gains we
currently enjoy today,” Basile said.

“It was through collective action that we won the 8-hour workday, the right
to form a labor union, and wage and hour laws,” she added.

Hinton spoke about the necessity of workers organizing at retail stores and
warehouses, specifically at Starbucks, where he currently works.

“The next time you walk into a Starbucks, I want you to congratulate the
baristas for all the hard work they put into making your drinks,” said Hinton, a
union barista.

The rally was organized by the Break the Chains Alliance, and featured
speakers from the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS), the Chinese
Staff and Workers Association, and a few local progressive politicians.
Additionally, the members of the Socialist Party-USA and the Workers Solidarity
Alliance (WSA) attended.

After the Chinatown rally, the crowd of approximately 700 people marched
uptown to join thousands of workers in Union Square for an annual May Day rally,
organized by the May 1st Coalition for Worker and Immigrant Rights. As the
marchers approached the park, a few dozen IWW members and supporters broke away
from the main group and headed to the Union Square East Starbucks—the second
Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) shop to go public, and one of the many SWU shops
in the U.S. that harbors union baristas. Most recently a barista from this shop,
Anna Hurst, joined the SWU to fight for back wages after store manager Gwen
Krueger denied her two weeks of work. Recently, former barista Sheanel Simon was
fired, re-hired, and then fired again for participating in the union.

Armed with drums, leaflets, organic lollipops and signs reading such slogans
as “No War But The Class War,” the Wobblies swarmed into the store to deliver
gifts to the baristas, who were forced to work on an international holiday. Each
barista was given a lollipop and a flier, and they were thanked for their hard

According to Union Square East SWU barista, Liberte Locke, the store’s
management attempted to gather information on the actions prior to May Day.

“In the days leading up to the event, Krueger questioned several baristas
about what the action would be. They certainly were not expecting lollipops,”
said Locke.

During the action, Krueger and district manager Adler Ludvigsen helplessly
watched as baristas thanked the IWW for their holiday gifts. Ludvigsen was
overheard telling a customer that the union was "just a bunch of anarchists and

The IWW then marched from Union Square East across the park to the 17th and
Broadway Starbucks, where many union baristas have been mistreated and
wrongfully reprimanded since going public with their union affiliation. Store
manager “Little Mark” Vanneri fired former barista Sharon Bell for being a union
organizer, and imposed disciplinary measures on current barista Henry Marin for
his union involvement. The SWU organized a three day call-in action to Vanneri ,
from May 1 until May 3, to demand that he respect his workers and their right to

At the action, management stood aghast at the end of the bar, looking
extremely nervous as the IWW swarmed into the store. The managers grew confused
when the Wobblies started handing out harmless organic lollipops and leaflets to
baristas and customers.

Before leaving, the IWW banged on drums while chanting “What’s disgusting?
Union busting! What’s outrageous? Starbucks wages!” for a number of minutes, and
left without being kicked out. They stayed outside waving red and black flags
before a torrential downpour hit. Locke said that baristas from both stores were
happy that the union came in.

Despite being drenched, half the group maintained their fighting spirit and
joined the rally in Union Square. The rally included a number of speakers and
musicians from congressional leaders to indigenous artists. Thousands of workers
marched in the pouring rain from Union Square downtown to City Hall. Some of the
groups in attendance were Make the Road New York, YKASEC: Empowering the
Korean-American Community, Jornaleros Unidos De Woodside, National Alliance for
Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), the New York Immigration Coalition, the Retail
Action Project (RAP), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the
African Services Committee, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and
the IWW.

The rain did not keep the IWW’s fighting spirit down. In fact, the spirit of
May Day lasted throughout the night, as dozens of workers joined together at the
NYC IWW office in Long Island City, Queens for a rooftop party. Miraculously,
the rain cleared right in time for the Wobblies to finish off the holiday with
union-made beer and a perfect view of the Manhattan skyline.