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GLOBAL coffee chain Starbucks was accused of hypocrisy today for claiming to have taken inspiration from Martin Luther King while spending millions of dollars on an anti-unionisation drive at its cafes across the United States.
Starbucks met widespread derision after it claimed to be “inspired by Dr MLK Jnr’s legacy” while inviting people to celebrate Martin Luther King Day, on which it said it would focus on supporting youth.
“We’re all better when we come together,” Starbucks posted on its official Twitter account as it spoke glowingly of “strengthening our communities.”
But former AFL-CIO director Richard Bensinger swiftly pointed out on Twitter that Dr King had “died while in Memphis supporting workers’ rights to organise a union,” something that Starbucks has bitterly opposed at its own branches.
Martin Luther King Day is celebrated across the United States in honour of the civil rights activist assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.
It has been adopted by many mainstream organisations and companies, which have been accused of sanitising the black liberation leader’s memory and ignoring his radical politics.
His most famous speech, in which he declared: “I have a dream,” was delivered to striking sanitation workers demanding better pay and conditions after the death of two colleagues.
Starbucks bosses, however, see trade unions as “a barrier” and have waged an aggressive campaign of intimidation to try to keep workers from having a voice on the job.
In December, the Elmwood branch in Buffalo, New York, made history when it became the first in Starbucks’ 50-year history to unionise.
The Genesee Street branch in the same city soon followed and the “Starbucks Workers United revolution” has continued since then, with cafes in Chicago, Seattle, Baltimore and elsewhere filing for union recognition.
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