“Starbucks Corp has been hit with its first strike at a company-operated cafe in Chile, where some workers are seeking pay and benefit increases, union and company representatives told Reuters on Friday,” reports News Daily.
Starbucks moved quickly against the strike and reaffirmed that the 31 cafes in Chile would remain open despite the lack of union workers (who only account for less than one-third of its employees).
The protest may strike some as odd given that Starbucks is commonly perceived as having some of the industry's best pay and benefits. Traditionally, this has helped to keep union organization efforts in the United States, where the coffee chain has the vast majority of its sales, off the company's back.
Starbucks operates roughly 17,000 cafes in more than 50 countries around the world and the vast majority of its cafes are not unionized.
Perhaps as a result of this, Chile has seen a growing wave of protests in recent weeks, led by students, environmentalists and miners.
To counteract the Chilean protests, Starbucks decided to cover the shifts of union workers with nonunion employees, said Starbucks spokesman Jim Olson in the News Daily report.
"Our stores in Chile have remained open and they'll continue to be open throughout the strike," Olson said.
Despite this solution and despite the fact that the stores remain open, the unions are claiming a major victory against the coffee giant.
"It's an incredible victory for the union, and obviously very symbolic for the company internationally," said Andres Giordano, president of the Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile union, who has been participating in protests at Starbucks cafes around Santiago.
According to News Daily, “About 200 of Starbucks' 670 employees in Chile belong to the union, which called on its members to be absent from work on July 7.”
In order for the strike to be certified, the union needed 50 percent, plus one, of its members scheduled for shifts on July 7 to participate
According to Chile's Labor Bureau, 62 workers were absent that day, while 57 showed up. The Labor Bureau found the strike effective as of July 7.
As a major global brand, Starbucks tends to keep accurate records of employee attendance and they disagrees with the Labor Bureau's ruling, which it plans to appeal, said the report.
"The numbers we provided to the Labor Bureau were different and showed that the number of partners that actually came to work as scheduled outnumbered those that participated in the strike," said Olson, who added that Starbucks was complying with the Labor Bureau's decision.
The protests have been going on in front of Starbucks' Santiago cafes since July 7.
Among other things, the union workers are seeking "pay that keeps up with inflation, a $100 monthly lunch stipend, enhanced health insurance benefits and a variety of bonuses."
These demands seem slightly ridiculous given that Starbucks already offers pay and benefits that surpasses all competition including: base pay that is determined by the competitive market pay rate for specific skills and experiences, bonuses for achievement of specific business goals, benefits including health coverage, income protection, reimbursement accounts, tuition reimbursement, employee assistance program, commuter benefit programs, and adoption assistance.