New practices include harsher cleaning guidelines, removing seating to make stores to-go only, and closing stores in highly populated areas and coronavirus-stricken areas. Starbucks employees are now tweeting that these measures may be protecting customers, but they leave employees at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Partners also claim they are experiencing difficulty in securing “catastrophe pay,” which is paid leave for workers who have been exposed to the coronavirus, are symptomatic, or need to care for others who are sick. Starbucks recently announced it is offering workers catastrophe pay. Yet, employees are accusing the coffee giant of only offering it once they’ve proved they have tested positive for the coronavirus or have been exposed to someone who has.
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Other accusations include sending baristas from stores that have closed to work at other locations, instead of home to quarantine.
“This means there are around 10+ baristas right now, making social distancing impossible,” Twitter user @ComradeSxm wrote of Chicago-area Starbucks stores.
A current barista shared that she was told her store location closed for the “protection” of staff, but then the employees were relocated to open locations.
“Tell me how my mall Starbucks closed to ‘protect us’ and stop the spread of COVID but instead of catastrophe pay they’re relocating us to other Starbucks where we will be in the same situation as before,” user @ana_socks wrote.
Current and former baristas are also sharing stories of previous illnesses being passed between partners.
“Worked at Starbucks for years,” Twitter user @mattiercox wrote. “There’s so many surfaces that share between baristas— touch screens, cleaning wipes, even headsets! I remember one person had to come to work with strep and everyone got it. It’s impossible not to pass illness while working as a barista.”
In addition to sharing stories of ineffective COVID-19 countermeasures, a petition to “suspend all business hours, at every location, while continuing to pay hourly and salary workers, during the spread of the coronavirus” has garnered over 22,000 signatures.
“I believe that it is fundamentally unsafe for us to be working in a food service environment at this time,” one signer and barista, identified as Travis C., commented on the petition. “Any one of us could be an asymptomatic carrier, or a carrier who has not yet shown symptoms and spread it to our fellow workers or to our customers. If Apple can shut down for two weeks, so can Starbucks. Apple sells electronics. We sell things that you eat. That go into your body. Make the responsible choice and shut the doors, Starbucks.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Starbucks and multiple people mentioned in this article but did not receive a response by publication time.
Last updated Mar 19, 2020, 3:45 pm
Brooke Sjoberg is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot studying journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. She is also the Daily Texan’s Life and Arts Editor and an editorial intern for Texas Connect magazine.