International Labor Solidarity Syndicalism

Starbucks union strike in Chile


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





October 31, 2013

To the public:

The Starbucks Coffee Union has begun a legal strike since October 29th, after having been unable to find in the company willingness to negotiate in good faith. Our organization repeatedly expressed a desire to reach an agreement. We even reduced our petition from 13 points to only one: providing meal bonuses in an amount subject to discussion. And Starbucks not only does NOT provide any type of food to employees during the working day, unlike all other companies in the industry and among competition, but also unlike the snack bonuses offered to all the management level staff of the company, a form of discrimination that is, obviously, unjustified. “No budget negotiations;” “we cannot recognize collectives and grant privileges;” “unions are unnecessary at Starbucks;” are some of the responses from the company to argue why they will agree to absolutely none of the demands of the workers’ union. The company has, however, just reported an increase in profits of over 34% to $1.2457 billion dollars.

Officially, Starbucks will continue saying that it “has always recognized and respected the right of all partners to join the union.” However, it has paid more than 50 million in four fines for breaching the right to freedom of association in the most grotesque manner. Moreover, the company claims that we are a small group and that 95% of its workers “recognize and appreciate 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 the company supports the demands of our organization, but fear to organize and speak out due to a history of reprisals. One cannot ignore that after two years of anti-union practices, the unionization rate fell from 55 % to less than 6 % today. We know that “Starbucks is proud to be (supposedly) a company with policies promoting open doors and meritocracy,” but we are outraged that they are also proud to be an anti-union company.

Our reality is complex. We face a model of anti-union work on a worldwide scale. This has never simply been about resources – it is a philosophical and political struggle, and therefore the company has constantly thrown the full weight of its economic power and operations into weakening us as a collective. None of the four convictions for anti-union practices have fazed the multinational giant, which continues to display the same behavior as always. Therefore, we urge the citizens, consumers, trade unions, and society as a whole to demonstrate in any ways that you can in support of these workers that now represent many more who genuinely fear organizing in a company like this. Today, in this unequal contest the sacrifice of these warriors is not for money, but for their right to bargain collectively and to win respect for the freedom of association at Starbucks. Therefore, we continue, united.

Starbucks Coffee Workers Union of Chile


Statement of October 21, 2013

Strike Approved! With only one dissenting vote, Starbucks workers have rejected the latest offer from the company that contains NOT ONE of the benefits proposed by the union. One hopes that executives of the company, and the new owners, Alsea, will move the negotiation process towards a real dialogue. UNITY!




The Current State of our Negotiations: Starbucks’ Peculiar Vision of the World

October 6, 2013

To the public, social movements, the politicians, and Starbucks customers

As previously noted, we find ourselves trapped in a collective negotiation where a multinational with the popularity of Starbucks seeks to assert its own anti-union work system over democratic mechanisms that have been pillars of the evolution of labor relations in the more developed countries of the world.

At our last meeting, on Friday, October 4, the negotiation committee announced that the company will NOT negotiate with our organization on any of the points that we have established – not for economic reasons – there is ample money available – but for philosophical reasons. It is worthwhile to note that this is illegal and that the company has already been fined for it. To make matters worse, the company insults us by advancing a public proposal offering two types of benefits:

  • Already existing benefits (so that we can sign an agreement and thereby, according to them, validate ourselves as a union )
  • The possibility that unionized workers leaving the company will receive compensation

In other words, the attitude is the same as in 2011 and they have the nerve to offer money to get rid of the few union workers who have made the choice to believe that the construction of a democratic model of work and distribution of profits is possible. Starbucks is relying on the weak laws of our country and the alleged intention of the company to maintain a Socially Responsible Business.

Still, we remain firm in the need to affirm our rights. We will not rest until Starbucks changes their undemocratic and arrogant behavior. We request the support of everyone in continuing to demand that the company respect our rights. There is still time to write to them.

We remain united,





The 13 points that Starbucks REJECTED

September 26, 2013


In a negotiation both parties must give, so that all points, amounts and forms are subject to modification at the negotiating table. Our intention is to achieve the best deal realistically possible in the shortest time possible. However, Starbucks has a different opinion and has therefore REJECTED EACH OF THE FOLLOWING POINTS, both as a whole and individually.


Annually the prices of everything climb: bread, transportation, gasoline, water, light, even prices at Starbucks – and this makes our cost of living increase (over 30% in the last 10 years). To match this increase, the base salary should be adjusted annually to track the consumer price index. This should be independent of merit adjustments given in October to highlight the good performance of some partners. This measure is intended to permanently preserve the purchasing power of salaries, and is not a substitute for performance evaluation increases. This is not a prize; it is maintenance of the income level.

2.      $25 TRANSPORTATION BONUS          

Store managers and all support center staff (workers in the center office) have it – only we are excluded.

We also believe that Starbucks should ensure transportation for workers whose shifts end on or after 10:30pm, due to the difficulty in commuting at that hour.

3.      $20 MEAL BONUS

As in the previous point, we only ask for the same thing that everyone else receives, from store managers on up, including our CEO.

4.      QASA BONUS – $ 25 and $ 12.50 approved in 1st and 2nd instance respectively

When the stress of QASA (Quality Assurance Standards Assessment – an external audit of standards and cleanliness) comes around every six months, successful performance should be rewarded. All baristas and supervisors end up cleaning the most obscure corners of the store to exhaustion. However, after the final triumph, only those at the top are rewarded.


a)      We propose to reward the Coffee Masters with a 15% salary increase

b)      The work of Barista Trainer must also be paid, which will encourage better trainings and results in the new partners. Other companies in the area, e.g. McDonald’s, where there is the position of Crew Trainer, receive a bonus of $ 20. Moreover, the MCMs (Management Coach Mentors, those managers who train managers), receive a bonus.

6.      STAR CASHIER – $15 BONUS

Who closes their register with a perfect balance for a whole month? Only a chosen few achieve such concentration. As in other companies, this would be an excellent incentive.


Who is consistently punctual in Chile? Reward those who make a special effort and have not been more than 5 minutes late and have no unexcused absences. This is done in Starbucks Argentina – only the mountain range separates us.


Why there is only a sales awards system for managers? It does not seem fair to us to reward higher-ups for the efforts of those underneath them.


There is no explanation for why external supervisors earn up to double that of those who have made a career within the company. Therefore, we propose that quarterly, through the SENCE (Servicio Nacional de Capacitacion y Empleo – a program of the Ministerio del Trabajo y Prevision Social) programs determined by Starbucks, internal supervisors can equalize wages to match that of external supervisors.


A semiannual bonus of $ 30 to cover footwear required for work.


The national health system does not cover medical leave of less than 11 days, which means that we often work sick to avoid losing money. We propose that Starbucks subsidize up to 12 days per year of these unpaid absences. In the U.S. Starbucks already does this; why not in South America?




Working translation by Steve Fake – corrections welcome.

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