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(en) US, WSA Ideas & Action - Starbucks union strike in Chile

Date Sun, 24 Nov 2013 12:14:20 +0200

Update (Nov 13, 2013): this post has now been updated to include the formal announcement of the end of the strike. ---- Editorial Note: ---- In September of this year US based member of the IWW were able to meet and connect with members of the Starbucks Union in Chile. They are now waging a strike over the company’s refusal to meet a single demand of the union and calling for support and solidarity actions. ---- Beginning in one store in 2009 after workers wrote to Human Resources raising objections to a series of company-wide layoffs only to be fired, the union spread nationally to half the employees across the company in Chile (see the November 2013 Industrial Worker for a more detailed interview). The union remains self-organized, unaffiliated to any larger labor body and led by rank and file workers who work on the job. Since waging a strike and then hunger strike the union has continued on despite Starbucks continual refusal to negotiate or concede demands to meet common workplace standards (such as paid meals for instance) and even after numerous fines for violations of basic labor law.

This should all come as no surprise to US based workplace organizers and labor activists. For a number of years US Wobblies have waged an innovative campaign, first beginning in New York City, to demand basic rights only to be met with outright hostility. Rank and file led worker organizing was able to win many hard fought store level improvements as well as an increase in starting wages of NYC stores and recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a company holiday nationally. But after numerous firings and violations of labor rights, the campaign was able to prove a systematic effort by high level company officials to undermine and violate worker rights. So it should come as no surprise that Starbucks, which has been expanding to countries around the world and especially in developing countries, is taking these same labor practices around the world. This is a literal example of the global fight against multi-national corporations and their exploitative practices world-wide and the labor movement slogan “An Injury to One is An Injury to All.” Please read the below statements of the Starbucks Workers’ Union and support or initiate solidarity actions in your city. Use this form to send an email in support of the striking workers to Starbucks Chile.

Starbucks Union Strike ends with Official Statement

November 8, 2013

To our fellow workers, our friends, and the public:

Today , November 8, we concluded our legal strike voluntarily, having achieved over the 11 days of mobilization, each and every one of the political objectives we set as a group at the time of launching the strike. The campaign was not only to obtain the much desired meal subsidy or some other benefit – we knew that Starbucks was not going to compromise its anti-union philosophy. It was not about resources. Rather, it was about fighting for our collective rights and send a political message full of solidarity to Chile and the world.

In just 11 days, our organization strengthened its unity and political development. Non-union workers who historically have been, for obvious reasons, too afraid to join the organization, have begun to see justice in our cause and grown closer and closer to us. It has become clear that Starbucks is a contradictory and obstinate business. Here there is no social responsibility but rather social irresponsibility. “No budget negotiations,” “we cannot recognize collectives and grant them privileges,” “unions are unnecessary at Starbucks” – these were the responses that the company posed to argue why it would not agree to a single one of the demands of its union workers, while reporting a 34% increase in profits to $1,245.7 million.

We have also reached the public, collecting more than 5,000 signatures of support in Chile and 7,000 international signatures calling upon Starbucks to change its anti-union behavior. Presidential candidates Marcel Claude, Roxana Miranda, and Marco Enríquez-Ominami expressed their support; also Tucapel Jimenez, CUT, the Labor Front , the CTC and the CNT among many many other organizations were present. Outside our borders, CSI and CSA did their part to show the dark side of the company internationally, taking our case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 25 October. And the IWW and workers in Belgium, England, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Spain, Argentina, and of course the U.S. unions in Starbucks all staged actions to support our cause.

We know that Starbucks will continue to hypocritically saying that it “has always recognized and respected the right of all partners to join the union.” However, the company has paid more than 50 million in four separate fines for breaching freedom of association in the most grotesque manner. The company adds that we are a small group and that 95% of its workers “recognizes and appreciates the good working atmosphere and the services offered by Starbucks, without sharing the union’s demands,” even though in reality, surveys show that more than 80% of employees support the actions of our organization, but are afraid to organize and speak out due to the history of reprisals. It is true that anti-union practices in the past two years have managed to reduce the unionization rate from 55% to almost 6%. However, we firmly believe that today a scenario has been initiated that will favor the unity of the workers against the anti-unionism of the company.

“Starbucks is proud to be ( supposedly) a company with policies promoting open doors and a meritocracy,” but what still outrages us is that it is also proud to be an anti-union company . Therefore it is our duty to take all measures domestic and international to ensure that the business stops violating the inalienable collective rights of its workers. Starbucks is a repeat offender, and therefore, we will present our case to the Labor Courts of Justice, but also to the OECD for violating the guidelines for multinationals. Likewise, we will file a complaint against the Chilean State at the ILO for abandoning its role as guarantor of the rule of law by allowing violations of domestic law and the international conventions ratified by Chile. We will continue to publicize our struggle during this process, with the support and solidarity of all organizations that have stayed with us during this battle. That’s why as Starbucks workers, we do not return to our jobs defeated, as we have cracked open the door that will allow us to democratize the company. We were always aware that this was the beginning of a long-winded fight against the violent imposition of a corporate job model. We’ll meet again in 18 months, more united than ever.

Thanks to all.

Starbucks Union
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