Ms. Anya Goes Wobbly

Ms. Anya Kamenetz is always whiny, but it's unpredictable whether her whines will be (A) mostly infuriating or (B) simply ludicrous. Her recent post at HuffPo, entitled "Starbucks Labor Revolutionary Canned" goes for Plan B. Let's look:

Daniel Gross, 27, has spent the last three years trying to organize his fellow Starbucks baristas into the Industrial Workers of the World ( I wrote about him last spring in New York Magazine.) He has reached some success at at least three Starbucks in Manhattan, and others elsewhere, despite vociferous opposition from management.
Immediate thoughts:
  1. Wow, the Wobblies are still around!? I don't think I've heard of them since US History class back at Harry A. Burke Senior High School in Omaha. (And, kids, that was a long time ago.)

  2. However, the Wobblies are now apparently desperate enough to consider Starbucks baristas as "Industrial Workers." The mighty have, indeed, fallen.

  3. Ms. Anya's breathless reporting of the result of three years' effort: "some success at at least three Starbucks in Manhattan." OK, she's impressed, but at this rate they'll have "some success" in the remaining Manhattan Starbucks in, oh, about 150 years. So the revolution may not be televised; at this rate, we'll see it in our holodecks.

The overwhelmingly young members of his union are stuck, like millions of teens and 20somethings nationwide, in low-wage, mostly dead-end food service jobs with unpredictable hours and rigid codes of behavior.
Ms. Anya's mind seems to float right by the reason these folks are "overwhelmingly young": because people leave dead-end jobs for better ones as they acquire job skills and experience. In short, they aren't stuck. This is good for them, and works out OK for Starbucks. The only people who have problems with this are those stuck in a 1930's-era manichean capitalist-hating mindset … oh, right. The Wobblies.
Some are trying to work their way through college, others have families to support; all of them have this strange idea that they deserve better conditions and prospects.
It is a strange idea. Conditions are, well, food service conditions, which (to my untrained eye) are probably above average at Starbucks. Nobody's confusing your average barista's work environment with that of a coal miner or a commercial fisherman, at any rate.

And it could well be that some of these good folks actually do "deserve better prospects". Hard to say without more details. If, however, you spent high school and college in a haze of Nintendo and marijuana as you eked out a BA in Art History … well, maybe you don't deserve better prospects.

But, questions of what you "deserve" aside: if you expect "better conditions and prospects" by dint of being a Starbucks employee, … you may need to adjust your expectations. Or find a different job.

They have embraced the radical socialism of the One Big Union (the one that brought you Joe Hill and "Pie in the Sky") , now just a shadow of its former self, because of its decentralized, democratic structure and its uncompromising ethos of solidarity.
Wha… The One Big Union is just a shadow of its former self because of its decentralized, democratic structure and its uncompromising ethos of solidarity?

No, that's not what Ms. Anya means to say. She's just in dire need of an editor, or a copy of Strunk & White.

Anyway …

"The IWW is basically a fan club for anarchists and labor geeks," one barista told me. "But we're making it into something real."
Color me skeptical.
Last week, Daniel Gross was reprimanded and fired. His offenses included sticking up for a fellow fired union member at a picket line. The baristas have called for a Starbucks boycott; details are at their website.
Starbucks is, of course, not talking about the firing. But when Ms. Anya says Gross's actions "included" merely sticking up for an ex-co-worker (or co-ex-worker), we can surmise some other actions were also "included" that Ms. Anya doesn't see fit to mention.
Is their quest quixotic? Maybe, but the Starbucks Wobblies make me happy.
And that's what it's really all about, isn't it? Making Ms. Anya happy?
I'll leave you with Barbara Ehrenreich's words from a Slate debate in June: "Yeah, I'm talking "class war" as a solution to poverty and rising inequality. But remember, the working class didn't start this war and—mainly due to the weakness of the unions and the pusillanimity of the Democrats—has been fairly supine in the face of repeated attacks. I say it's time to fight back. What's your solution?"
I'll chime in with a tedious rehash of what I said back in June: Typical of those with the unconstrained vision, Ms. Anya and Ms. Barb know that the only things causing the world's problems—even down to the woes of the baristas—are human stupidity and malice; the proper and obvious solutions, then, involve violent rhetoric about war, attacks, and fighting.

In contrast, I can't resist posting this comment from a nice man on the HuffPo site who doesn't quite get what the fuss is all about:

My daughter, a graduate student in Chicago, is a barista at Starbucks. She makes double the minimum wage, has flexible hours around her school schedule, and has the best benefits available. Even as a part-timer, she has full medical, dental, etc. Not only that, but she was able to put her fiance on full benefits prior to their marriage under the domestic partner benefit clause. No wonder it is hard (at least in Chicago) to get a job there.
A little dose of reality that, of course, Ms. Anya and the Wobblies will not find relevant. Because their worldview would implode if they did.

Previous posts mentioning Ms. Anya: here, here, here, here, and here.

URLs du Jour

2006-08-09

  • We kind of like looking at the interaction of language and politics here at Pun Salad. One of the more popular themes of the past few years has been that of Berkeley's George Lakoff who contends that Republicans are particularly good at "framing" issues: for example, talking about tax cutting as "tax relief", thereby placing their opponents in the unenviable position of being anti-relief. (Um, which they are. Sorry, George.)

    Although he doesn't mention Lakoff, Fred Barnes has a pretty good counterpoint to that argument at the Weekly Standard. Basically: liberals are, and have always been, pretty active in that game as well.

    At the local level, liberals often go by a different name. They are "activists." Again, the media have helped popularize that word. So the folks who protest plans to build a Wal-Mart in their town or suburb are "activists." The people who oppose a zoning change to allow a church to be built are "activists." What about those who don't want an abortion clinic in their town? They're still conservatives.
    Lots of other examples too.

  • Guaranteed to put me in a poor temper is just about any article in Inside Higher Ed about student racial classification at colleges. This one is no exception.
    On Monday, the U.S. Education Department—following nearly nine years of study and planning—released draft guidance for colleges on how to change the way they collect and report information about students' race and ethnicity. The system proposed by the department would for the first time allow students to pick multiple boxes, with colleges reporting all of those who checked multiple boxes in a new "two or more races" category. In addition, the new system changes the way data will be gathered about Latino students and divides the "Asian and Pacific Islander" category into two distinct groups.
    Yes, it's Your Federal Government At Work, with multiple well-paid bureacrats in arduous labor for nine years to say: it's OK to ask your students if they consider themselves to be multi-racial.

    Hey, I think I could have come up with that all by myself in, oh, four years. Maybe five, if you want it spell-checked.

    The educrats' fervent hope is that this will cut down on the number of students who refuse to state their race, which has been growing over the past few years. Needless to say, there's almost nobody in the whole sorry endeavor who wants the government and colleges to get out of the Jim Crow business of pigeonholing students by their "race."

    If you want more Salad Screediness on this topic, it's right here.

  • Well, my wish for a Lieberman victory yesterday went unfulfilled. I'll live. Especially since Radley Balko reminds us why he wasn't that great (not that Lamont would be any improvement). And also especially since Dean Barnett has updated his Lamont/Lieberman FAQ. Including:
    Connecticut is not a great state; it's a mediocre state at best. No pro sports teams, its largest city is a cultural abyss and it's got Yale. And what kind of nickname is the Nutmeg State? Nutmeg is a spice, for crying out loud. Are there any other states that have chosen to name themselves after a spice? Would West Virginia consider calling itself the Garlic Powder State or Colorado the Cumin State?
    Well, Dean, Nevada is sometimes deemed the "Sage State". (Honest.) But as someone from the Granite State—named after a rock, for crying out loud—I'm hardly one to throw stones.

    Yes, that was almost kind of a pun here at Pun Salad; now you know why we don't do that too often.

  • People who aren't experts on anything will want to read Stephen Colbert's "How to be an Expert on Anything." Especially relevant to bloggers, methinks.

Brick

[Amazon Link] [4.0
stars] [IMDb Link]

This is a conscious effort to bring the old Spade/Marlowe private-eye flick into the 21st century. The result is bizarre and fun.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, famous for playing Tommy Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun, appears here as a high school student whose ex-girlfriend has been murdered. The genre insists that he play the knight errant, venturing into the mean streets of San Clemente, California, to bring justice upon the wrongdoers. Just as Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, he needs to consort with a bad element, dish out some fisticuffs, have fisticuffs dished out upon him, and, above all, maintain his stoicism and the ability to crack wise. There's also "the stuff that dreams are made of," in this case a high-value brick of heroin that nobody seems to be able to hang onto for long, and might be cut with poison.

Lukas Haas, the cute Amish kid from Witness, appears as a menacing drug dealer. He still has the big eyes and unusual skull shape, but their effect here is to make him creepy.

Also appearing in a small role: Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft! And he's still a bad mother- [shut your mouth!—ed. I'm only talkin' about Richard Roundtree!]

Everyone speaks hyper-elliptically in what I assume is supposed to be the patois of your typical California high school drug culture, mixed with Hammett/Chandler tough-guyisms. ("The ape blows, or I clam.") It's kind of amusing trying to figure out what they really mean; but even if you do, it doesn't matter too much, because everyone lies a lot too. Subtitles are a must, because it wouldn't do to play these characters as if they just stepped out of elocution class; there's a lot of mumbling and fast-talking.

By the way: I hardly ever get brand new DVDs, but Blockbuster Online really came through this time, delivering this to my door on the very same day of its scheduled release. Good for them.


Last Modified 2012-10-23 1:37 PM EDT