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Starbucks workers plan rally over excessive workload

A Starbucks employee serves drinks in reusable plastic cups made as part of the coffee chain's 50th anniversary on Sept. 28th. (Yonhap)
A Starbucks employee serves drinks in reusable plastic cups made as part of the coffee chain's 50th anniversary on Sept. 28th. (Yonhap)
Baristas and employees of Starbucks Korea are fuming over excessive workload, after a recent marketing event drew customers lining up for hours.  

Saying the company has no consideration for the working conditions of its already-overworked staff, the employees said they may stage their first-ever collection action this week.  

A staffer at the US-based coffee chain, who requested anonymity, confirmed to The Korea Herald on Monday that workers are planning a rally this week. The person did not provide further details.  

If realized, it would be the first such collective action at Starbucks here, where there is no labor union. Starbucks directly operates its nearly 1,600 outlets in Korea, with some 18,000 workers. 

Talk of an action emerged on Blind, an anonymous social media app where employees post about companies and management culture, after the firm sold beverages in limited edition reusable plastic cups as part of its 50th anniversary event on Sept. 28.  

“Some locations had around 650 cups (waiting to be served). Even though we wanted to run away from the endless number of customers and a historic record of orders, we kept our place for only one reason: responsibility,” a person purported to be a store manager wrote on Blind. 

For the reusable tumbler event, the number of people simultaneously logged on to Starbucks’ “siren order” app to place orders topped 7,600 at one point. Many customers bought multiple drinks to receive more of the reusable cups. 

Starbucks’ limited edition merchandise has always been very popular here. When the company rolls out exclusive seasonal merchandise, people often line up in front of Starbucks stores early in the morning to get the items before they run out. 

The anonymous writer went on to criticize the coffee chain for exhausting its employees with “endless promotional events.”

According to local reports, the rally is likely to take place in Seoul on Wednesday, with protest banner-wrapped trucks being mobilized. Workers plan to demand better pay and working conditions.

In response, Starbucks Korea’s spokesperson said it would “listen to Starbucks partners through various channels and check for areas of improvement.” 

Meanwhile, last week’s promotion was also criticized for green washing, with critics saying it encouraged unnecessary consumption of plastic products.

By Kang Jae-eun (kang.jaeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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