Chile top court upholds Starbucks fine over labor practices

SANTIAGO Mon Oct 8, 2012 1:22pm EDT

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SANTIAGO Oct 8 (Reuters) - Chile's Supreme Court has upheld a fine of about $50,000 slapped on Starbucks Corp over labor practices, after unionized workers claimed the coffee shop chain threatened layoffs, benefit cuts and illegally replaced workers during a strike.

Last year, Starbucks was hit by its first strike at a company-owned store, with workers in Chile seeking pay that keeps up with inflation, a $100 monthly lunch stipend, as well as other benefits.

"We hope the Chilean justice's punishment of Starbucks allows for a change of mentality," Andres Giordano, a Starbucks union president in Santiago, said in a statement on Monday.

Starbucks is seen as having some of the restaurant industry's best pay and benefits, which has helped it fend off union organization efforts in the United States, where the chain has the vast majority of its sales.

Santiago's court of appeals had issued the fine.

Chile's labor department in August blacklisted local units of Starbucks and retailer Wal-Mart over labor practices, preventing them from bidding to supply local government offices for two years.

Starbucks was not immediately available for comment.

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