Friday, May 20, 2011

Work Ethos and caring for the lesser privileged – the case of Starbucks

The Greek word ‘Ethos’ means character i.e., the guiding ideals that characterize a community, Nation or ideology.  It is connected to morals as well. Quite often we hear the phrase ‘the survival of the fittest’ attributed to Charles Darwin & Spencer – the process of natural selection.  The fittest, here does not certainly mean the commonest use of ‘being physically fit and energetic’ – it perhaps is more of what is suited to environment and stronger than others to survive.

A great man who lived in the 19th century in Tamilnadu said “ வாடிய பயிரை கண்ட போதெல்லாம் வாடினேன் [ I withered whenever I saw a withered plant] - these   were the immortal words of Vallalar who started  Samarasa Suddha Sanmarga Satya Sangam [society for the pure truth in Universal self-hood] in 1865.  This great man also set up a free eating house called The Sathya Dharma Salai in a place called Vadalur in 1867, where all could eat without any distinctions whatsoever. Her abhorred non-Vegetarianism.

He is - Arutprakasa Vallalar Chidambaram Ramalingam [1823-1874] whose pre-monastic name was Ramalingam.  He led a saintly life and was a great poet.   He propagated that  human life should be of  love connected with charity and divine practice leading to achievement of pure knowledge.

Human values are fast eroding and city life is fast and ruthless with no place for pleasantries.  Men often tend to mind their lives and not care for the other.  There needs to be a social life and One must care for the less privileged assisting them along.  There are many in the society who have been forced to live with disadvantages for no fault of theirs.  In a civilized society, it is our duty that we care for them and ensure that all live peacefully and happily. 

There is need for good thinking and even smaller gestures will help spread the message.   Read of this news item : -

In the world of packaged drinking water, there are too many players vying for market share and Ethos is a known brand and they advertise to have a social mission of "helping children get clean water." It reportedly started with the idea that emanated after work  in communities in South Africa that lacked access to clean water.  It is part of Starbucks Corporation, an international coffee and coffeehouse chain based in Seattle, Washington.  It is one of the largest with more than 17000 stores in 50 countries.  They sell  drip brewed coffee, espresso-based hot drinks, other hot and cold drinks, coffee beans, salads, hot and cold sandwiches and  pastries, snacks, and items such as mugs and tumblers. Starbucks-brand ice cream and coffee are also available at grocery stores in upcountry markets. 


The U.S. government is suing Starbucks, saying the coffee company fired a barista in El Paso, Texas because she is a dwarf.  The report states that  when the employee asked for a stool or small stepladder to perform her job, Starbucks denied the request and fired her that same day, claiming that she could be a danger to customers and workers.  U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed the law suit on the premise that Starbucks violated federal law by denying a reasonable accommodation to the employee, who was hired in July 2009 and was fired after three days of training.

The Company keytowed a logical response stating that the person was hired on trial basis and then decided that the work was too physically demanding for that person to perform.  Using a stool in the environment just was not reasonable suited.  The Commission states that there is potent need for any employer to provide equal opportunity and access to all their employees.

It is not as if such incidents do not happen in India – only that these would not come to light as affected individuals would be too meek to fight, there is no Govt. department equivalent to Federal Commissions and the justice in a Court of law would be too time consuming and costly. 

Regards – S. Sampathkumar

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