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Before Starbucks Baristas Had Unions, They Had Coworker Petitions

The tattoo petition would inspire other similar successful efforts at Skechers, Publix and Jimmy John’s. Since then, other Starbucks employees have launched nearly a hundred campaigns. Nearly 80,000 baristas have run some type of promotion on Coworker, and 43,000 are currently active. While many petitions have failed, Starbucks workers have demanded victory for several notable changes ranging from a six-week paid store closure during the pandemic to extended paid parental leave and needle disposal boxes in bathrooms.

Starbucks spokeswoman Reggie Borges denies that Starbucks based its policy changes on petitions from colleagues. He says the company receives feedback from employees through a number of channels, including weekly meetings, surveys, a hotline and a social media platform for managers. “Of course, they said they were already considering it, and it had nothing to do with my petition,” says Williams. “But I’m like ‘sure’.”

For Casey Moore, a barista in Buffalo, New York who has been involved in both union efforts and coworkers, it’s unsurprising that Starbucks employees have made a difference. “They are known for hiring LGBTQ people and people who consider themselves activists outside of the workplace,” she says. “We also want to have a say where we work.”

Even if they don’t result in tangible change, peer petitions can raise awareness. In 2016, Starbucks employees noticed their hours were being cut and their stores were understaffed. The timing couldn’t have been worse; Summer came and with it the insatiable thirst for complicated Frappuccino drinks. A California barista named Jaime Prater wrote a letter to CEO Howard Schultz about the issue and published a petition to coworkers titled “Starbucks, labor shortage is killing morale.” Coworker conducted a survey of baristas on its platform and found that the labor shortage was a consistent experience.

Shortly after he posted his screed, Prater received a call from Schultz himself. “It was exciting,” says Prater. He thought, “If the CEO of this company calls me, Mr. Nobody, something will happen. But it didn’t.” Prater says Schultz kindly listened to his concerns and then transferred him to Cliff Burrows, president of Starbucks’ Americas operations. The company paid Prater back for a promotion he should have received but never addressed the staffing shortage, he says. “It was like calm the messenger and waive the message.”

The petition remains live on Coworker, where it has garnered 25,000 signatures, 17,000 of which are from Starbucks employees. She continues to collect signatures to this day. Some workers have cited staff shortages as a motivation for unionizing.

Borges denies that Starbucks has understaffed the stores, attributing the perceived shortage to seasonal fluctuations, though Prater released its petition well before Starbucks typically cut staff in late summer. According to Borges, in the event of a staff shortage, store managers can use various ordering channels, such as B. mobile orders, switch off.

While Prater’s campaign was unsuccessful, it helped draw more attention to coworkers and expand its barista network — more than 10,000 self-proclaimed Starbucks employees signed the petition in just under six weeks. Prater appeared on news outlets like CNN and gained notoriety among Starbucks employees. Through the connections he has made, he has crowdsourced a document outlining key employee concerns and their impact on shareholders, workers and customers and submitted it to the company. Though he left the company in 2018, he says he still gets emails about Starbucks almost weekly.

https://www.wired.com/story/coworker-starbucks-petitions-unions/ Before Starbucks Baristas Had Unions, They Had Coworker Petitions

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