Speaking of hugely popular chain stores with a liberal reputation which are actually staunch enemies of unions: Starbucks! The Industrial Workers of the World have been trying, with little success, to organize Starbucks workers for years. This week, they're picketing select Starbucks locations in major cities, partly in sympathy with Chilean Starbucks workers who are already on strike. From an IWW press release:

Over 200 baristas and shift supervisors that work in the 32 Chilean Starbucks locations went on strike on July 7th. They are striking in an effort to have their demands met. Their most crucial demand is earning a higher wage. Currently baristas at Starbucks in Chile make $2.50/hr. while the drinks are still sold for US prices, and they haven't received raises in 8 years. The baristas are also asking for a lunch stipend in order to eat during their shifts, this is something managers in Chile are provided.

Two weeks, to the day, after the strike began a New York City barista and mother of two young children was fired for announcing her membership in the IWW Starbucks Workers Union...Tiffany White-Thomas has worked at the Canal/Broadway Starbucks for over two years. She was up for a promotion when her store manager, Rafael Fox, told her that, being a mother, she would not have the time necessary to dedicate to the company so he would not be promoting her.

A Starbucks spokesman tells the WSJ that Tiffany White-Thomas was fired because she "created an in-store disturbance that was visible to customers. To suggest that she was terminated for anything other than performance is untrue." He also says that Starbucks pay in Chile is "above and beyond the industry norms." Fine, so don't worry if your workers want to unionize! They're clearly happy and grateful as it is, disregarding the fact that several of them in Chile are on hunger strikes.

Anyway, that reminds me: Are there any Starbucks workers out there who would like to share tales of your Starbucks employment? It would help the world at large to know whether a union would be useful a Starbucks if we knew what working at Starbucks is really like. We've done this before with Wal-Mart workers and Target workers and it was quite enlightening.

So if you worked or work at Starbucks and you want to speak on it (good or bad), email me. Anonymity guaranteed.

[WSJ; photo via AP]