By JULIE JARGON
Baristas are putting up pressure on Starbucks Corp. to come to terms with 200 unionized workers in Chile who have been on strike for more than two weeks.
Employees who belong to the IWW Starbucks Workers Union kicked off a "global week of action" on Monday in solidarity with their Chilean colleagues by picketing in front of a Starbucks in New York City. The IWW baristas, who are not affiliated with the Chilean workers' union, say union workers will be handing out flyers describing the Chilean situation outside Starbucks stores in Phoenix, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, London and Melbourne, Australia. The IWW is also planning to stage an event in Starbucks's hometown of Seattle this week, but won't yet disclose the nature of it.
Starbucks employees protest in front of the company's cafe in Santiago, Chile, on Monday. Starbucks has been hit with its first strike in Chile.
Workers belonging to Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile walked out on July 7, marking the first time employees at a company-owned Starbucks have gone on strike. The baristas say they're paid so little that they can't afford lunch. The starting hourly wage for Chilean Starbucks workers is the equivalent of $2.50, an amount that hasn't changed in eight years. The workers at 30 of Starbucks's 31 Chilean stores are pressing for a lunch stipend similar to what Starbucks managers receive and to have the company assume the full cost of their health insurance, among other things.
"We feel very strongly that the benefits and compensation we offer our partners in Chile are above and beyond the industry norms," said Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson. "Our starting baristas' total compensation is 30% above the industry average; we offer company stock and cover 70% of their health care. The list of 25 things they're seeking, which includes a wedding bonus and a bonus for the birth of a child, are well outside the norm of standard business practices in Chile."
Now, three of the union officials in Chile are on a hunger strike as well.
Andres Giordano, the union's president and one of the employees on strike, said the union hasn't heard anything from Starbucks since the strike began. "Doing this is the only way we can reach the company," said Mr. Giordano, who slept outside the Starbucks corporate office in Santiago Sunday night and has been using a sign to announce his hunger strike.
Mr. Olson said Starbucks has continued to participate in discussions with the union.
Starbucks entered Chile in 2003 and it is the only country where the company has a sizeable union presence, with less than a third of the company's 670 baristas organized in Chile. While the strike has been under way, all Starbucks stores in Chile have remained open and Mr. Olson said he's confident the strike will end on Aug. 5 when unionized workers are allowed to return to work under Chilean labor laws.
A group of unionized baristas in New York picketed for two hours in front of the Starbucks at 405 Broadway in Manhattan, where they claim a fellow barista was recently fired after announcing her membership in the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. The union is asking for her reinstatement. Mr. Olson said the employee was fired because she had "created an in-store disturbance that was visible to customers. To suggest that she was terminated for anything other than performance is untrue."
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Baristas Put Pressure on Starbucks [Wall Street Journal]
By JULIE JARGON