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Starbucks is a company that sells coffee.
I think this is common knowledge, but did you know that one of Haiti's primary exports is coffee?
Minimum wage disputes have long been an issue in Haiti, the previous minimum wage was 70 gourdes ($1.75) per day, that the Parliament voted to increase to 200 gourdes ($5) per day.
This attempt was rebuffed by president René Préval, and an agreement was reached to set the minimum wage at 125 gourdes per day instead.
This decision came upon Business concerns over the economic ramifications of raising the minimum wage.
Haiti's special economic situation revolves around its low payed workers, the duty free exports to the united states, and its proximity to the united states markets.
Interestingly enough, Paula E. Boggs, Executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Starbucks Coffee Company, is also on the Audit and Risk Management Committee of the American Red Cross.
The Haitian leadership has been plagued over the years with scandals of kickbacks, embezzlement, and extortion. None so prolific as the financial abuse of the Haitian owned Telecom company, whose funds were imbezzled by then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Martelly's relationships with members of Haiti's past governments and with U.S. diplomats has been met with mixed opinions and criticism by music fans and activists alike. Martelly is reportedly a friend of President René Préval, and has previously acknowledged such friendships as well as the one with Lt. Col. Michel François, the former Port-au-Prince police chief, who was later convicted of human rights abuses in absentia
Prior to the coup that overthrew Aristide, Martelly operated a nightclub called the Garage, often frequented by Haitian military and other members of the ruling class. Later, after a second coup had overthrown Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Martelly played a free concert to oppose the return of the ousted Haitian president and any American presence on the troubled island
On April 4, 2011 a senior Haitian official announced that Martelly won the run-off Haitian Presidential Election against candidate Mirlande Manigat carrying more than 60% of the vote (although less than 25% of the eligible voting population actually voted. His success is attributed by some to the fact that he hired a professional marketing firm, Ostos and Sola, and also held political rallies with music in a traditional Haitian style.  However, official results are not expected until April 16.
In December 1990, the former priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide was elected President in the Haitian general election, winning more than two thirds of the vote. His 5-year mandate began on 7 February 1991, having survived a coup attempt even before his inauguration, when former Tonton Macoute leader Roger Lafontant seized the provisional President Ertha Pascal-Trouillot and declared himself President. After large numbers of Aristide supporters filled the streets in protest and Lafontant attempted to declare martial law, the Army crushed the incipient coup.
During Aristide's short-lived first period in office, he attempted to carry out substantial reforms, which brought passionate opposition from Haiti's business and military elite. His relationship with the National Assembly soon deteriorated, partly over his selection of his friend René Préval as Prime Minister. In September, Aristide was overthrown in the 1991 Haitian coup d'état, led by Army General Raoul Cédras, and flown into exile. Elections were scheduled, but then cancelled. The Organization of American States condemned the coup, and the United Nations set up a trade embargo. A campaign of terror against Aristide supporters was started by Emmanuel Constant. In 1993, Constant, who had been on the C.I.A.'s payroll as an informant since 1992, organized the FRAPH, which targeted and killed an estimated 5000 Aristide supporters.
In 1994, an American team, under the direction of the Clinton Administration, successfully negotiated the departure of Haiti's military leaders and the peaceful entry of US forces under Operation Uphold Democracy, thereby paving the way for the restoration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide as president. In October 1994, Aristide returned to Haiti to complete his term in office. Aristide disbanded the Haitian army, and established a civilian police force.
Aristide vacated the presidency in February 1996, the scheduled end of his 5-year term based on the date of his inauguration. In the 1995 election, René Préval was elected as president for a five-year term, winning 88% of the popular vote. Préval had previously served as Aristide's Prime Minister from February to October 1991..
Four months after the US leader received the prestigious honor in Oslo, the White House said he would split the money that comes with the prize between several charitable organizations.
A quarter of a million dollars will go to Fisher House, an NGO that provides housing for the families of US soldiers being treated at military hospitals, the White House said.
Another $200,000 will be given to the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund, a charity set up after the country's devastating January 12 quake and administered by former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
A large portion of the award money will go to support the education of underprivileged and minority students, with gifts of $125,000 going to four groups that help students from black, Hispanic, American Indian and Appalachian communities.
Two other groups that provide scholarships and educational assistance will also each get $125,000 gifts.
$100 Million US Aid to Haiti: $3.3 Billion Quarterly Profit for JP Morgan
It was extremely strange to hear President Obama specify $100 million as America's pledge to the suffering people of Haiti. My first thought was: $100 million is roughly one-quarter of the budget for Avatar. So were we really pledging about forty-five minutes' worth of a 3D sci-fi movie to aid those homeless millions? While we desperately want to believe this aid figure only represents a tiny down-payment on a much greater humanitarian effort to come, the disproportion sounded completely insane--an insanity that only grew today, when JP Morgan Bank reported quarterly profits of $3.3 billion dollars. Which means that--in three months--one single bank raked in 330 times more than we've set aside for the most grievous disaster in the recent memory of our entire hemisphere.
Naive as it no doubt sounds, wouldn't it be good to work towards a world in which those figures are reversed? And where hundreds of billions of dollars--and untold amounts of American engineering genius--are channeled into technologies of disaster relief instead of ever-sleeker bombers?
As a screenwriter and audience-member, I know there's no reason or need to give back those 45 minutes of Avatar., but as an American citizen I demand we move to recoup some of the piratical and sickening profits of JP Morgan and start redirecting them to suffering human beings.
Starbucks and Ethiopian Coffee: The Bitter Taste of Exploitation
f you go to the website of Starbucks, the international coffee chain, this is what you will read:
Starbucks strongly believes in the importance of building mutually-beneficial relationships with coffee farmers and coffee communities with which we work. The success of the farmers with whom we do business is a critical component of our own success. We are taking an integrated approach to building relationships with coffee communities.
So why is Oxfam accusing Starbucks of preventing Ethiopia from seeking to gain more control over its coffee trade by opposing that government’s application to have some of its most famous coffee beans trademarked?
Starbucks has denied the accusation, saying that they did not, as Oxfam contends, contact the US-based National Coffee Association (NCA) to block the Ethiopian government’s application, and that the NCA contacted them instead.
The head of the NCA says that it opposes the Ethiopian initiative for economic reasons:
"For the US industry to exist, we must have an economically stable coffee industry in the producing world," he said, and added: "This particular scheme is going to hurt the Ethiopian coffee farmers economically."
This really gets my goat for several reasons.
Firstly, I do not believe the claim by Starbucks that it did not try to block the Ethiopian government. The Oxfam article describes this claim as “disingenuous” and I tend to agree. The Ethiopian government officials say that when they inquired from the NCA as to why their action was being blocked, they were informed that it was because Starbucks had requested it.
Talking of the NCA now. Does America grow coffee? Why does a country that does not grow coffee need a coffee organisation?
The association says it represents American coffee companies, and its success is due to its “ability to respond to external issues, wherever and whenever they arise.”
Yes, like preventing poor countries from trademarking their coffee and making some gains out of it. Like controlling the market by getting the coffee really cheap, with no regard at all for the people who grow it, and selling it at mind-boggling profit.
Below is an excerpt from the statement the NCA published in response to Oxfam’s report:
"The National Coffee Association opposed Ethiopia’s attempt to trademark the geographical indicators Sidamo and Harrar (Harar) because such action would jeopardize the supply of these high quality beans and economically harm producers. "
Ethiopian Coffee Farmer
How would the trademark impede supply? How does the trademark of a car or a washing machine or a packet of muesli impede its supply? Could someone enlighten me, please? And why, then, does Starbucks itself inflict on itself the unnecessary burden of trademarking its name?
Even more contentious is the claim that the trademark would economically harm suppliers. How? By making the prices of their coffee higher and earning them more revenue so that they can buy food and medicine for their children?
How much does a cup of coffee cost? I can buy a cup of black coffee in my office cafeteria for 90 Euro cents. That is far from hugely expensive. Admittedly, this is not one of the prized Ethiopian coffees, which cost more. But think. How much of what I pay for a cup of coffee goes back to the original farmer who grows it?
Let’s do some statistics. The Oxfam report says:
"Coffee shops can sell Sidamo and Harar coffees for up to £14 a pound because of the beans’ speciality status," explained Tadesse Meskela, head of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in Ethiopia. "But Ethiopian coffee farmers only earn between 30p and 59p for their crop, barely enough to cover the cost of production. I think most people would see that as an injustice."
Ethiopian farmers are not the only sufferers, though. A 2002 report, also by Oxfam, states “coffee farmers are getting, on average, 24 cents a pound while consumers in rich countries are paying roughly $3.60 a pound – a mark-up of 1500%. Coffee now costs more to grow and pick than it does to sell”
Now go to Starbucks. They sell a cup of coffee for about £2. It contains, maybe, a quarter of an ounce of coffee. If the person who grew the coffee gets between 30p and 59p per pound, that’s between about ½p and 1p per cup. Now suppose that the person serving the coffee takes 1-2 minutes to pour the coffee, take the money and give back the change, etc. At the minimum wage, that’s between about 7p and 14p per cup.
Is that alright? Is it right that the person who pours the coffee and serves the customer should get fourteen times as much for that as the farmer who grew the coffee?
Should we go on drinking our coffee without worrying about the poor people who spend their lives at the mercy of the elements so we can have a warm drink when we get up in the morning, when we need a booster during the day, and when we meet with friends, or just enjoy a cup alone?
At best, the attitude of the NCA is paternalistic. They say that the increased prices that would result from a trademarking of the coffee would price the coffee farmers out of the market. So now they’re telling Ethiopian farmers how to value their efforts.
Are Ethiopians themselves incapable of finding a balance between how much to ask for their coffee and how to keep their market? Are they irresponsible five-year olds?
At worst, it is unbridled profiteering, with no real interest (despite the sanctimonious claims of Starbucks on its website about making sure that the small guy gets something out of it too) in making sure that the people who actually grow a product get something from it that would raise them to the level of dignified, self-sufficient human beings.
If a farmer gets between 30p and 59p for a pound of his coffee, how much does the coffee picker get?
It is all very well for the big coffee companies to say that they are helping the farmer get a fair price for his or her product, but such initiatives are suspect.
What they actually do is hijack the concept of economic justice, to provide as limited a version of it as they can, without jeopardising their profits, while making loud noises about how good and helpful they are to get good publicity and enhance the value of their own brand – exactly what they are trying to stop the Ethiopian farmers from doing.
But if the farmers who grow the coffee try to get the justice they deserve, they are blocked.
It seems as if real justice is too expensive for the people who profit from injustice.
Rosemary Ekosso is a translator and court interpreter with the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. She blogs frequently at Ekosso.com
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