Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Wayne Roberts interviews Robert Massoud

A recent member and supporter of TorontoTheBetter, ZATOUN: fair trade olive oil from Palestine, has been profiled in last week's NOW Magazine.

Wayne Roberts reports that:

'Robert Massoud, born in Jerusalem of Christian Palestinian parents and now living just north of Toronto, developed the project as "a people-sized initiative for those who want to make a difference" but who "throw up their hands and walk away" in despair from seemingly hopeless cycles of retaliation in the Middle East.'

Mossoud addresses the conflict with an olive branch by Bottlling peace in a jar.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Green Party calls for crackdown on labour code violations


Green Party calls for crackdown on labour code violations

Canada must do more to protect the rights of workers

OTTAWA – Slap-on-the-wrist penalties and a complete failure to enforce federal labour standards add up to a betrayal of Canadian workers by their national government, the Green Party said today.

“Parking tickets are prosecuted more rigorously than violations of the Canada Labour Code,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “Canada must do more to protect the rights of workers, especially those in non-union workplaces.”

In Fairness at Work, the Federal Labour Standards Review of the Canada Labour Code, Commissioner Harry Arthurs reported that during the past 20 years, not a single prosecution had been launched under Part III of the code, which deals with hours of work, wages, overtime, reprisals and unjust dismissal.

“We endorse the Commissioner’s recommendation that Part III of the code be amended to provide effective deterrents to labour standards violations,” said Ms. May. “People need to be informed of their fundamental workplace rights and have these rights protected by the ministries charged with enforcing labour standards.”

There is growing concern over the state of labour standards amid reports that unpaid overtime is on the rise and the International Labour Organization’s condemnation of Canada as one of the world’s worst violators of basic labour rights. This is particularly serious in an immigrant-rich society such as Canada’s where many newcomers may not be aware of their rights.

Ms. May said that countries with the highest labour standards dominate the World Economic Forum rankings of most competitive economies in the world. “The federal government must learn and apply the labour lessons that have put Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and Denmark at the top of the international competitiveness list,” said Ms. May.

The Green Party calls on the federal government to raise penalties available under the Canada Labour Code from the current derisory levels to at least the level of provincial legislation such as the Ontario Employment Standards Act and to make enforcement a priority. Also in line with provincial legislation, posters informing all federally-regulated workers of their rights under the Canada Labour Code should be prominently displayed in workplaces.


Camille Labchuk

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

M17: Stand In Solidarity with Starbucks Workers on the Third Anniversary of the SWU

This is copied from the IWW Starbucks Workers Union website (visit there for future updates and further background):

Call to Action for a Day in Solidarity with Starbucks Workers

May 17, 2007

Starbucks workers and their allies will take to the
streets around the world to demand justice from the
world's largest coffee chain for baristas and coffee
farmers. Three years ago the corporate bosses at
Starbucks were sitting pretty on their multi-million
dollar fortunes, confident that anti-worker labor laws
would continue to ensure a workforce with zero union
membership in the United States. But no matter the
constraints, working people will find a way to join
hands and struggle for justice until victory. Three
years after the founding of the IWW Starbucks Workers
Union [], the organization has
members in multiple U.S states successfully using
Direct Action to rise out of poverty and articulate an
independent voice on the job.

To silence worker voices, Starbucks has disgracefully
terminated eight SWU baristas in retaliation for their
union activity. The SWU has prevailed against
Starbucks to reinstate two of the members but six
remain out of a job. Despite multiple Labor Board
complaints, the coffee giant continues to punish
baristas for discussing the union and relentlessly
forces union-busting propaganda down workers throats.
Starbucks must understand that working people of
conscience will not allow this affront to the dignity
of our class.

On May 17, commemorate the third anniversary of the
SWU and stand in solidarity with baristas and coffee
farmers with actions in your local community. 1)
Hold a spirited protest against Starbucks
union-busting, 2) reach out to baristas with a message
of support, 3) organize a fundraiser, or 4) choose
a different solidarity action. Whatever you do,
you'll be part of a global effort challenging the
neoliberal logic that places profits over people.

Starbucks workers are struggling not just for
ourselves and our families but for every worker at the
big brands who are looking for a collective voice and
a better life. Join us.

Let us know about actions you are organizing by
sending an e-mail to

Please take photos, video, and/or write up a report of
your action to share with workers around the world.

Together We Win.

IWW Starbucks Workers Union

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Campaign to Stop Killer Coke Update: Coke's Problems & Losses Continue to Escalate

Lots of updates in the latest Campaign to Stop Killer Coke's newsletter:

1. College Updates

a. Simon's Rock College dumps Coke
b. Smith College Committee votes not to renew its contract with Coke
c. Earlham College
d. Ohio State University
e. SUNY Albany
f. SUNY Stony Brook
g. University of Chicago
h. University of North Carolina
i. University of Michigan
j. University of Vermont
k. University of Minnesota
l. Chabot College, College of Wooster, Florida International University, Pitzer College, Plymouth State University, University of Minnesota, Williams College
m. Dave Hancock, NYU, to be union organizer in California

2. Labor Updates

a. United University Professions (UUP), votes to wage boycott Coke campaign
b. Colombian Coke truck drivers fired for joining SINALTRAINAL
c. Teamsters Union Takes on Coke for abuse to workers in U.S. and elsewhere
d. Jobs with Justice Petition: "Tell Coca-Cola to Stop Worker & Environmental

For details and further reports, see the May 14th, 2007 newsletter here.

Starbucks to announce Ethiopian Trademark deal this month

According to a recent report by Anton Foek for CorpWatch, Starbucks is on the verge of signing a historic, progressive deal whereby the company would recognize Ethiopia's decision to trademark three of its coffees, rather than certifiy the bean names:

"What the Ethiopians have demanded is Starbucks' support for the country's innovative plan to trademark three of its coffees - Harar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe. Until now, the world's largest specialty coffee retailer has resisted the move, arguing instead for certification of bean names. Trademarking, say critics, would give power to growers; certification, they argue, is toothless.

The dispute sounds technical, but at root the controversy is about trying to close the gap between the $4 a Western consumer may pay for a cappuccino and the 50 cents a day earned by a laborer on an Ethiopian coffee farm (or on farms elsewhere in the world: see Brazil box).

Every penny counts, for individuals (an estimated 11 million Ethiopians, about one-fifth of the population, depend on coffee for their livelihoods) and for the nation (coffee provides two-thirds of the country's export earnings)."

See the entire May 8th, 2007 Food and Agricultre article,Trademarking Coffee: Starbucks cuts Ethopia Deal, for more details and further background.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Karma Co-op General Manager part of Fair Trade Panel

Graeme Hussey is participating in a panel discussion this Wednesday (16 May 2007) regarding corporate involvement in the Fair Trade movement:


Bill Barrett, Planet Bean Coffee
Gavin Fridell, Trent University
Graeme Hussey, Karma Co-Op

Wednesday, May 16, 2007; 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm.
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto
252 Bloor St. West, Toronto; Room 12-199

While the Fair Trade movement was originally an exclusively social
economy movement, there has been increasing participation by traditional
businesses, most notably large corporations, in recent years.

Some would suggest that this increased participation by corporations has been a
good development as it has contributed significantly to the movement’s
tremendous growth. Others are less sanguine about the role that
corporations have been playing, suggesting that it is altering the
nature of Fair Trade and perhaps undermining its long term survival.

This panel will examine the current state of Fair Trade in Canada, especially
the opportunities that Fair Trade present for social economy actors and
the challenges that corporate involvement in Fair Trade create for them.

Bring your lunch and a mug: coffee, tea and water will be provided.

For more information, visit the Social Economy Lunchbox Speakers' Series page.

To RSVP, or for more information, contact Sherap Winn at or (416) 923-6641, ext. 2087.

Monday, 7 May 2007

TorontoTheBetter Movie Series extended

The 2007 2nd Annual TorontoTheBetter Movies Series:"PWYC Movies, Discussion and Action about everyday economic choices for a better Toronto and a better World" is being extended...

on Wednesday, May 16th at the Brunswick Theatre (296 Brunswick Avenue, just south of Bloor Street) we are presenting a 7 PM double bill: Together We Win: The Fight To Organize Starbucks (New York Wobblies add salt to the Starbucks brews), along with House of Despair, Parks of Hope.

Heck, maybe we should make this a year round thing...if you have any questions or suggestions, contact us as, or 416-364-0050, ext. 305.