Forward Thinking

Perspectives on ideas and stories that impact the workplace, including a spiritual dynamic. Authored by media and communications veteran Mark Elfstrand.

The Great Pastry Shortage of 2019

Go ahead. Hold my common sense hostage.

For the last couple of weeks, our local Starbucks has featured empty pastry shelves. Well, not quite empty. There were a few leftover items that leave one wondering how long those not-so-fresh items have been around!

Why no food? Depends on who you ask. According to the Chicago Sun Times, it’s an internal mixup. The paper quotes a spokeswoman for the coffee chain (Ms. Abanesi) as saying, “Some stores in the area had too much while others had too little. Store managers are working to balance that supply.”

Excuse me while I laugh. Or choke as my common sense is being squeezed out. Are you sure that’s the reason and not some, hmmm, labor dispute?

A labor dispute? Yup. It seems the Teamsters Local 710 are having a tiff over the length of a work contract with DPI Specialty Foods. Now both Ms. Abanesi and a spokesman for DPI are in the denial business on this one. They both claim there’s no connection to the empty pastry shelves and angry union members.

Meanwhile, here’s a Chicago Tribune story from September 3rd: “Can’t find that Starbucks croissant? Teamsters dispute could be the reason why some coffee shops’ shelves aren’t filled.” So what’s the scoop…as the say in barista-land?

Apparently, DPI—a Canadian company—has been supplying over 900 Starbucks in three metro areas: Chicago, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis. There’s a hint that Starbucks might be looking to move their business to another firm. This might well worry DPI enough to only offer a 7-month contract instead of the usual 5 year agreement. Union members gave that idea thumbs down.

There’s truth out there somewhere. I could not find any stories related to shortages in the Twin Cities or Indianapolis. Doesn’t mean they’re aren’t any.

But this is where corporate stubbornness—or stupidity—gets in the way of serving customers. Are we to believe that this major coffee supplier with chains across the country cannot manage to figure out an inventory plan for muffins and pound cake? Oh pllleeeazzz!

Even I could figure this out! Chicago has a bunch of super quality bakeries. If the Starbucks folk are really (and unbelievably) incapable of getting their usual goodies, get replacements! Unless…unless there’s something bigger going on. Like, say, not wanting to cross a local Teamsters group in Chicago. Do that, and you might have replacement Paczkis shot through your windows!

This kind of situation is why I can’t say I’m a big fan of unions. They may not be responsible for the Great Pastry Shortage of 2019 at Starbucks. But unhappy union pickets can keep us from flying on time. Or sending our kids to school. Or having garbage picked up. And if you’re not a union fan? You’re a rat!

I certainly don’t begrudge those who are in unbearable working conditions from finding relief. Usually, arbitration on such matters can find resolve. But when someone’s gripe over the length of a contract or more vacation or “cost of living” increases keeps me from my Starbucks donut, that’s going too far.

I often turn to the Bible for answers to difficult problems. Does the Bible say anything about labor unions? No. But it does speak to employers about the issue of pay. James 5:4 reads, “You refused to pay the people who worked in your fields, and now their unpaid wages are shouting out against you. The Lord All-Powerful has surely heard the cries of the workers who harvested your crops.” (CEV)

As for me, I’d prefer not to have the Lord All-Powerful holding my company up as an example of a bad business apple. Better to do the right thing. And if the same Lord catches greed and corruption taking place among the working ranks, don’t expect any favors on your account. You’ve got no case with the True Judge.

Looks like both sides have work to do. Come. Let us reason together.

My coffee is getting cold.

ADDENDUM: Good news! The shelves have been replenished and your sweet tooth is once again safe.

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For more information:
https://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-biz-starbucks-dpi-teamsters-food-shortage-20190903-bfuvt2mehbfftbijbszg2kleua-story.html