Submitted on Thu, 07/21/2011 - 1:03pm
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By Julie Jargon - Wall Street Journal, July 6, 2011
In what would be Starbucks Corp.'s first strike at a company-owned store, baristas at the chain's outlets in Chile plan to walk out Thursday because, they say, their wages are so low that they can't afford to buy lunch.
Unionized employees at 30 of Starbucks's 31 Chilean stores plan to walk out for as many as several days, said Andr?s Giordano, president of the union, Sindicato de Trabajadores de Starbucks Coffee Chile.
Mr. Giordano, a 24-year-old shift supervisor in Santiago, said the starting hourly wage for Chilean Starbucks workers is the equivalent of $2.50, and it hasn't changed in eight years.
"Lunch in Chile costs $5 to $6," he added.
The Chilean workers have been pressing for a lunch stipend since they organized two years ago. Starbucks managers in Chile get a monthly "lunch bonus" of $50, while other employees are offered two free coffees a day. "I would prefer to eat a sandwich," Mr. Giordano said.
The skirmish underscores one of the challenges U.S.-based companies like Starbucks face as they expand their global footprint. Multinational companies seeking to enter new markets often have to deal with local labor groups and government requirements to honor collective bargaining.
As a condition of merging with African retailer Massmart Holdings Ltd., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. recently agreed to honor union-bargaining agreements for three years.
Starbucks has had to comply with government-mandated participation in collective-bargaining agreements in Brazil and Argentina. The company has also clashed with workers who tried unsuccessfully to organize in Europe and New Zealand, and it has battled with unionized workers in North America, where 300 employees are members of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union.