Amsterdam Starbucks may face protests

17 August 2008 – Starbucks will open a store at Amsterdam Central Station next spring. Last month, activists in twenty countries protested against the coffee chain’s poverty wages and violations of labour rights. The Amsterdam store may also become the target of solidarity actions.

The new store is to become a springboard for further expansion in the Netherlands. Obviously, the 33,500 members of the Starbucks group at social network website Hyves are thrilled, but it appears that journalists can hardly wait either.

‘Finally’, NRC Handelsblad‘s Sander Voormolen sighs. Some are even becoming impatient. “How much longer will we keep waiting patiently?” Laura Walburg writes on Z24.

In its mission statement, Starbucks says it is committed to providing a ‘great work environment’. Last year, however, the National Labour Relations Board charged it with thirty labour rights violations in the USA, including illegal dismissals of union activists.

The IWW Starbucks Workers Union, a 200-member grassroots union, further claims that the chain fails to pay its workers – known as baristas – a living wage.

In Seville, Spain, Starbucks recently fired Mónica, a barista and activist with the local branch of the anarcho-syndicalist union CNT (known for its role in the Spanish Civil War). Shortly after, the chain fired Cole Dorsey, a barista in Michigan.

On 5 July, the IWW and the CNT organised a global protest against the dismissals. Stores were picketed in Germany, Austria, Spain, Ireland, the UK, the USA, Poland, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Russia, Switzerland and New Zealand.

“Of course the new Amsterdam store should also be a target in the future”, says Beltrán Roca Martínez, Secretary of Union Action of the Seville CNT. The CNT is still negotiating with Starbucks to have Mónica reinstated. If no agreement is reached next week, new actions are to be expected.

In Amsterdam, Starbucks already operates stores at Schiphol Airport as well as a roasting plant serving stores in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. In the USA, it plans to close 600 stores.

CNT Sección Starbucks, IWW Starbucks Workers Union, labour rights violations. In order to participate in discussions at the Starbucks Hyves page, join here. Image: London store manager tries to convince the police to remove protestors (photo from website).

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