June 16, 2024

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Union members allege Starbucks quietly disqualifying employees for benefits

4 min read
Another claim of labor law violations on campus, and an allegation that Starbucks is quietly disqualifying workers for an education benefit.

Another union worker on campus is fired, this time by Starbucks. Reporting for KEPW News,  DJ Suss D.

[00:00:07] DJ Suss D: So why are you out here in front of the EMU (Erb Memorial Union) holding a sign that says ‘No Contract, No Coffee’?

[00:00:14] Union member #1: Because well, today one of our coworkers was wrongfully fired and we’re with the union and so we’re treated differently than other Starbucks in the area. We get less things than other Starbucks in the area. And so we’re just trying to be equal to them—get treated equally than every other worker that works for here.

[00:00:34] DJ Suss D: All right, so you’re standing out here in front of the EMU at the U of O, your sign says ‘Starbucks Stop Union Busting.’ The Starbucks employees here at the EMU, what is different about them?

[00:00:44] Union member #2: Our list of responsibilities is going to be different than those at other Starbucks. For instance, we don’t have bathrooms or lobbies to clean.

[00:00:50] We also take in a capacity that’s a lot higher than other Starbucks. We frequently see triple-digit amounts of customers in half-an-hour increments on our busy times, which is a very high number.

[00:01:01] And then we also don’t really make tips here. Being on a college campus, we don’t have credit card tipping. That’s something that only non-unionized stores have. And college kids also don’t really carry cash. So, like, single digit amounts of dollars for a week. That’s how much tips we get. Whereas if I cover a shift at any other Starbucks in town, I’ll probably be making double digits in a week.

[00:01:21] We also don’t have any employee break areas that are specific to us. The place we would spend break, it’s the same place our manager is sitting, which is not a great kind of way to have to take your break if you’re sitting there and your manager’s also right there, especially when a manager is the vessel in which Starbucks a lot of the time will union-bust. So that’s a very uncomfortable dynamic to have.

[00:01:44] Another thing that’s weird is that if someone’s being unruly in our lobby, we aren’t allowed to just kick them out. We have to call the campus police who then comes and determines whether or not they have to be kicked out. So if we feel unsafe, we don’t have the power to kick someone out. We have to go through a second, like a third party I guess, to get that to happen.

[00:02:05] It’s been really frustrating cause we’ve had like a pattern of behavior from specific individuals in the past who will come up and steal food and harass customers and the only thing we can do about that is just call someone else about it. Other Starbucks stores, they’re allowed to just like get someone out of the lobby, threaten to call the police. We can’t do that.

[00:02:22] DJ Suss D: Well, so you fear for your own safety, sort of, there’s a potential for your own safety.

[00:02:26] Union member #2: There’s a lot of safety concerns, especially because with the capacity I mentioned, we have like a really high volume of customers too. For how small we are, that’s a very big issue because we’re running around doing a lot of stuff. We’ll get throngs of people in this area… You can’t walk through here without telling people to go through. It just causes a lot of safety issues.

[00:02:45] Starbucks does offer some pretty good benefits in comparison with other fast-food places. But if you compare it to any other corporate job or any job that’s like an office job with a real benefits package, it doesn’t seem like something that significant. The benefits they’re offering are more just like, here’s benefits that other fast-food places don’t offer.

[00:03:04] So we seem better, but in reality, the wages still start at the federal floor for wages. They’ve been barely hiking those up throughout just to feel like they’re feeding us more breadcrumbs. It’s still a really hard place.

[00:03:16] I know we do get, we do have things like some insurance that we can get if we’re scheduled for 20 hours a week. We don’t have to be full-time, but every quarter Starbucks will cut hours and people will become ineligible for that because they’ll get less than 20 hours a week. And that’s something that they’ll do without even talking to the partners (baristas). They won’t bargain for that. They’ll just decide this is a way we can make extra money, is by cutting hours at the store and paying people less. And then that really stretches us thin.

[00:03:44] Every quarter they’ll cut hours for partners. And they have our minimums, like, weekly hour minimums you have to work for both benefits like that. And also another benefit they give us is Arizona State University. They’ll give us term by term some classes, but you have to meet an hour minimum for that across the term.

[00:04:05] And when you cut hours like that, and you’re not asking baristas for that permission, you’re putting them below the threshold that they need for those classes. I know at least two partners at our store that have had hours cut below those thresholds.

[00:04:16] DJ Suss D: For college credit you mean?

[00:04:17] Union member #2: Yes, for college credit and getting classes and getting educated.

[00:04:22] John Q: Another claim of labor law violations on campus, and an allegation that Starbucks is quietly disqualifying workers for an education benefit. Starbucks Workers United talk with DJ Suss D for KEPW News.

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