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Starbucks Baristas Fight for More Parental Leave

Corporate employees get three times as much paid leave as baristas

Starbucks Coffee Emerges As Largest Food Chain in Manhattan Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

Starbucks baristas are fighting for equal rights. The coffee chain will soon have the best parental leave policy of any major restaurant chain, but there’s a major disparity between store employees and those who work for the company’s corporate office — and workers are demanding change.

Yesterday Starbucks was presented with an 80,000 signature-strong petition urging it to provide equal paid family leave to both its corporate and store employees, the Seattle Times reports. Under its revised family leave policy that was announced back in January and is slated to go into effect in October, corporate employees who have just given birth will be able to take up to 18 weeks paid leave at 100 percent pay, and non-birth parents (partners, adoptive parents, and foster parents) will get up to 12 weeks paid leave.

But those employed at Starbucks stores, including the baristas that serve as the company’s labor backbone, will get just a fraction of that: Birth mothers will be eligible for six weeks of paid leave at 100 percent pay, plus an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave, while non-birth parents will get no paid leave (though they can take 12 weeks unpaid).

The petition was organized by a labor group called Working Washington, which played a significant role in the fight for Seattle’s $15 minimum wage, and a national paid parental leave advocacy group, PL+US. Two Starbucks baristas delivered the petition to the company yesterday and met with an executive who oversees benefits. Starbucks relayed to the Times that its significantly more generous leave policies for corporate employees are “an attempt to be more competitive in its efforts to seek and retain talent.”

Reached for comment via email, Starbucks did not directly address the petition, saying instead, “You will not find another company that has pioneered more innovative benefits for full- and part-time employees. Our benefits package is available to eligible partners (employees) who work at least 20 hours a week, and includes comprehensive and affordable health insurance, a tuition-free college degree program, equity in the form of stock, and more.”

Indeed, the company’s leave benefits for its store employees, while not nearly as good as those for its corporate workers, are still leaps and bounds ahead of what’s offered by most fast-food chains: KFC and Taco Bell parent company Yum Brands, for instance, does not offer any paid parental leave, while McDonald’s gives new birth mothers 12 weeks of paid leave at 50 percent pay, but does not extend leave benefits to adoptive parents or partners.

Starbucks Pressed to Offer Equal Parental Leave for All Employees [Seattle Times]
Starbucks Now Has the Best Parental Leave Policy of Any Major Chain [E]