Back in 2005, the Chairman of the Board of Stabucks was asked about concerns over employee health benefits. "We're not ever going to turn our backs on our partners [employees]," said Howard Schultz reassuringly even as he bemoaned the cost.
In 1999, when workers were thinking about unionizing at one of the coffee giant's plants, Howard rushed to the scene to talk about his working class roots and about how much he cares for his employees. Howard reiterated as he had done many times before that because of his early experiences with poverty, even his part-time workers would always have health insurance.
According to the an article on the website of the Organic Consumer Association, one of the workers at the meeting Jeff Alexander remembers looking out the window after the talk and wondering what percentage of Howard’s $14 million salary he had spent on the brand new Jaguar parked near his own aging Suburban.
In May 2004, Starbucks proudly sponsored “Cover the Uninsured Week,” an annual campaign of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focused on expanding access to affordable, quality health care coverage.
So how come fewer Starbucks employees are receiving health care coverage than workers at Walmart of all places.
Well Starbucks points out that its workers are covered under other health plans: from other jobs, spouses, and Medicaid.
Covered by medicaid? Kinda calls into question wages, doesn't it?
Oh well, as we said at the start, sometimes the boss just doesn't tell the whole truth.
The following is from the IWW.
SWU Condemns Health Care Decline at Starbucks
Percentage of Starbucks Employees Covered by Company Health Care Decreased Over 2006, Early 2007
New York, NY- The Starbucks Coffee Co., which has come under increasing criticism in recent months over its health care policies, was dealt a further setback with the admission that 75,000 of its 127,000 U.S. employees are not covered by company insurance. According to the company's own figures, the coffee giant provides health care to just 40.9% of its employees, down from 42% in late 2005. Critics have accused the company of misleading consumers about its health care plan, pointing out that Wal-Mart- a company widely criticized for its health care offering- insures a higher percentage of its employees than Starbucks.
"Starbucks' latest health care figures confirm what baristas already know- the majority of us either don't have health insurance or rely on outside sources including Medicaid for care," said Suley Ayala, a Starbucks barista in NYC whose family is insured under the Medicaid program. "Starbucks should stop lying to the public about its health care plan and make its insurance affordable."
In a long-term campaign sure to be memorialized in public relations textbooks for years to come, Chairman Howard Schultz and Starbucks have turned the company's below-average health care plan into a competitive advantage for the Starbucks brand. However, the customer goodwill Starbucks has created is steadily eroding as the facts behind the health care myth emerge.
Two hurdles keep the majority of Starbucks employees from obtaining company insurance. First, baristas must work 240 hours per quarter to qualify to purchase health care. Starbucks maintains a 100% part-time hourly workforce in its cafes and no baristas are guaranteed any work hours per week- thus, obtaining the 240 hours is far from assured. For baristas who do hit the 240 hour mark, they are faced with an unaffordable combination of premiums, co-pays, deductibles, "payment percentages," and other out-of-pocket expenses to obtain coverage.
"The company's rhetoric on health care is a prime example of its hypocrisy," said Matt Rolls, a Starbucks barista in Maryland and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. "Starbucks needs to move beyond the rhetoric, guarantee a minimum amount of work each week, and make its health care plan affordable."
Founded on May 17, 2004, the IWW Starbucks Workers Union [StarbucksUnion.org] is an organization of employees at the world's largest coffee chain united for a living wage, secure work hours, affordable benefits, and an independent voice on the job. Starbucks does not recognize the union's right to exist and is currently engaging in a relentless union-busting campaign. Using an organizing model known as solidarity unionism, the SWU does not seek certification through the flawed government process. Instead, worker-members take collective Direct Action to win systemic gains and remedy individual grievances with the company.