On December 30, 2023, at 5:00 PM, a group of 25 pro-Palestinian protesters organized a sit-in at the Starbucks located on Esplanadi in central Helsinki. The protest aimed to draw attention to what they perceive as Starbucks' implicit support for the Israeli actions in Gaza and the company's alleged anti-worker and anti-union practices. Videos of the protest are posted on Facebook and Youtube.
Background of the Protesti
The protesters accused Starbucks of targeting its Workers Union for expressing support for Palestine. This allegation comes in the wake of heightened tensions in the region and increased scrutiny of corporate involvements. Starbucks, a global coffeehouse chain, has come under fire due to its largest shareholder, Howard Schultz, who has reportedly invested 1.7 billion euros into the Israeli cybersecurity startup, Wiz. Critics argue that the Israeli cybersecurity industry, known for its ties with the national security apparatus, is part of a broader issue of corporate complicity in geopolitical conflicts.
Starbucks' Alleged Union-Busting
Participants in the Helsinki sit-in accused Starbucks of engaging in a smear campaign against the Starbucks Workers Union, following a tweet by the union expressing solidarity with Palestinians. "It seems like Starbucks doesn't care about their workers or the Palestinians suffering under occupation, apartheid, and bombing," said Alisa, a protester at the event. She emphasized that the company's actions were seen as an affront to the rights enjoyed by workers in Finland.
The Larger Content
This protest in Helsinki reflects a growing global concern over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to reports, the Palestinian Health Ministry has been unable to tally the casualties in Gaza due to infrastructural damage. Human rights organizations, including Save the Children, have expressed alarm over the high number of children casualties in recent weeks. Additionally, the Campaign for the Protection of Journalists has labeled the conflict as the deadliest for journalists since 1992, with at least 53 journalists reportedly killed.
Israeli Occupation and Settlements
The conflict's history stretches back decades, with Israel occupying Gaza and the West Bank since 1967. The ongoing land and sea blockade of Gaza since 2005 and the exponential growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been sources of international criticism. Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the Israeli organization B’Tselem, have described Israel's actions as constitutive of an apartheid state.
Response from Starbucks and Other Parties
At the time of reporting, Starbucks has not issued a formal response to the Helsinki protest. The event, however, underscores a rising trend of consumer and grassroots activism targeting corporate practices perceived as complicit in global conflicts and human rights violations.
This incident in Helsinki is a poignant example of how local actions can reflect and respond to global issues, highlighting the interconnectedness of corporate behavior, consumer responsibility, and international human rights.