Why are Starbucks Workers Joining a Union?

Starbucks Workers Need to Rise Out of Poverty

The idea that Starbucks workers are paid fairly is a myth created by the company’s public relations machine. Starbucks workers in the United States earn as little $7 or $8 per hour depending on the location.

On top of the low wage, every single barista in the United States is part-time and not guaranteed any work hours per week. For example, a Starbucks employee can get 35 hours of work one week, 22 hours the week after, and 10 hours the following week. Combine the low-wage with the fluctuating hours and you get a very bleak financial picture for Starbuck workers despite Starbucks’ $23 billion market value and rapid growth. Apparently, a net worth of over a billion dollars is not enough for Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz.

Starbucks Workers Deserve Health Care Coverage

The single greatest myth constructed by Starbucks about working for the company involves health care. But in reality Starbucks is far from being a leader in employee health care. Starbucks insures a lower percentage of its workforce than Wal-Mart a company rightly condemned for its poor health care policies. Starbucks’ 42% is not only worse than Wal-Mart’s 47%, it’s also worse than the industry average!

The barriers to health care for employees are two-fold. First, employees must work 240 hours per quarter to qualify to purchases health care through the company. Keep in mind however, that with no full-time workers and no guaranteed work hours, qualifying to purchase health care is far from assured. Second, workers must pay significant premiums, co-pays, and deductibles to participate in the health care plan. The poverty pay package makes these out-of-pocket expenses a difficult proposition indeed.

Starbucks Workers Require a Sufficiently Staffed and Safe Working Environment

Starbucks baristas work at a relentless pace to meet extraordinary customer demand. If management scheduled an appropriate numbers of workers on the shop floor, workers would not have to work at such an unsafe speed with very hot beverages. The Starbucks work environment is also chock full of ergonomic dangers. The combination of the unduly brisk pace and the ergonomic inadequacies result in repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome for many Starbucks workers.

Starbucks Workers Have a Right to the Respect that Comes With an Independent Voice on the Job

The work life of employees at multinational retailers like Starbucks is characterized by innumerable abuses. Disrespectful managers and managers who treat workers like children are not uncommon. Schedules are often made without consideration for a workers’ need to a healthy sleep schedule. Starbucks requires workers to call around the city to get a shift covered when ill or in bereavement.

Joining a union is how workers exercise their right to free association on the job. The act of standing together with one’s co-workers goes beyond wages and working conditions; solidarity goes to the inherent dignity of working people. A union is how workers have their own voice both on the job and in society. Finally, joining a fighting union is a great way to connect with the global movement for justice.