As government officials are considering closing all but essential services, Starbucks employees sent a message to Starbucks management that they should not be considered as essential!
In a petition with over 20 thousand signatures, Starbucks employees ask the company to close the stores temporarily. Others, such as Blue Bottle Coffee have recently taken similar action. They state this is in both Starbucks and customers interests, since “both customers AND partners are at risk of catching and spreading the virus.”
The petition, started by Aniya Johnson, a barista in Philadelphia, calls for “suspending all business hours, until further notice, WHILE continuing to pay both hourly, and salary workers.” Starbucks, like many other companies, needs to find the balance between doing the right thing by its employees while maintaining a commercially viable strategy.
Starbucks offers baristas paid sick leave, and recently implemented a “catastrophe pay” program, whereby an additional 14 days of paid leave is available to any employee diagnosed with the Coronavirus or has had prolonged contact with someone diagnosed with the disease.
Starbucks executive vice president Rossann Williams wrote: “you should never have to choose between work and taking care of yourself.” But doing the right thing in a big corporation with shareholders is often harder than people imagine. This situation is new territory for everyone, but while the boardrooms of these big companies will be discussing getting the balance of legal obligations to their shareholders with the legal and moral obligations to their employees and customers in balance, they should veer towards the moral arguments.
As Governments are acutely aware, now is not a time for prolonged debate, it is a time for bold action.