/** reg.guatemala: 140.0 **/
Starbucks Reneges on Labor Agreement, Solidarity Groups Say
Cerigua Weekly Briefs, No.11, 6 March 1997
Seattle, March 6. A 1995 pledge by the Starbucks Coffee Company to ensure its farm workers receive fair wages and conditions now appears little more than a public relations stunt, labor advocates here charge.
In response to pressure from human rights groups, Starbucks became the first U.S. coffee company to agree to purchasing coffee only from growers who respect workers' rights to a living wage, decent housing and acceptable health and safety standards.
Last year the Council on Economic Priorities recognized Starbucks' commitment by awarding the company its Corporate Conscience Award for International Human Rights.
But in the two years since the labor code was established, the company has refused to identify, let alone monitor, its Guatemalan coffee growers, the U.S.-Guatemala Labor Education Project (US-GLEP) reported yesterday.
Workers on one plantation where Starbucks buys coffee told US-GLEP investigators that they are paid as little as US$1.25 a day -- less than half the legal minimum wage and a fraction of the estimated US$8 a day required for a rural family to meet its basic needs. Other abuses reported include no protection for workers using pesticides, few latrines, and housing made of plastic sheets and sticks.
"Starbucks is reneging on its promise and its goals," said US-GLEP director Stephen Coats.
Starbucks hit back at its critics, saying the company is being treated unfairly because of its reputation for social responsibility.
"We're the only company that has given back to Guatemala, and we're the ones being hounded," complained Starbucks Chairperson Howard Schultz. Schultz pointed out that the company recently donated US$75,000 to help small-scale Guatemalan growers produce gourmet beans.
He also threatened to stop buying Guatemalan coffee if activists continued to focus on the company's poor labor record there.
But activists say Starbucks has been targeted precisely because the popularity of its 1000 coffee bars hinges on its trendy, progressive image. If Starbucks wants to profit from that image, it's got to "walk the talk," said US-GLEP representatives.
For information not related to subscriptions,
please contact our Guatemala office: