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Starbucks Anti-Union Practices a Global Phenomenon

Starbucks Anti-Union Practices a Global Phenomenon

As Starbucks in the United States faces a hearing over allegations that managers dismissed employees for promoting unionisation, New Zealand fast-food workers are facing similar problems.

15 Starbucks officials have been charged in the United States with an array of unlawful activities, including firing two baristas for encouraging workers to unionise. [1]

“Bullying tactics are commonly used by large multinational employers in order to discourage unionisation,” said Simon Oosterman, coordinator for, a campaign promoting the rights of those in minimum wage jobs in New Zealand.

“It isn’t just the brands of multinationals that are known internationally – their anti-union reputation is also a global phenomenon,” he said.

“At last weeks Starbucks strike in Auckland, workers were threatened with dismissal for abandonment of shift if they went on strike for over an hour, despite the strike being legal.”

“At KFC over 20 workers were intimidated into resigning from Unite union, and in one case an Area Manager for KFC was found tearing down important union notices.”

“This is all despite Vicki Salmon, who is the head of Restaurant Brands, which owns Starbucks and KFC, saying that the company respects its employees’ right to belong to the union. For Restaurant Brands it’s not about protecting their employees’ basic rights to unionise, it’s about protecting their brands’ reputation by hiding the reality of these examples of anti-union practices.”

“It is extremely important for us to look after these workers when for many of them it is their first job and they don’t know their rights,” said Mr Oosterman.

“Lack of workplace rights and poverty wages go hand in hand.”

“Despite these kinds of bully tactics, young workers at Balmoral KFC in Auckland are making a stand against youth rate exploitation and voted 100% to strike this Saturday at 2pm as part of the campaign to raise the minimum wage, gain secure working hours, and abolish youth rates,” he said.

Workers at KFC in New Zealand earn as little as $7.13 an hour and have no guarantee of secure working hours.

Wal-Mart, the giant US chain, is also facing heavy criticism over its treatment of workers, giving them no benefits or security, and blocking unionisation. One Canadian store was even closed when it tried to unionise, and was subsequently prosecuted for it by the Quebec Labour Relations Board. [2]

“Anti-union policies are simply about profit over peoples’ right to basic workplace rights and a decent living wage,” he concluded.


See also…

  • [1] “Massive Labor Board Complaint Implicates Top Managers”, November 25, 2005, Starbucks Union,
  • [2] "As Union Nears Win, Wal-Mart Closes Store", February 10, 2005, Associated Press
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