So last night I was talking to a few former barista coworker friends, and the subject of Starbucks came up – I believe in the context of discussing the neglectful management of our former place of employment. If you know me even moderately well, you know that I’ve maintained a long-standing ban on Starbucks. I worked at an independent coffeeshop for two years, and have many friends who work and/or manage independents. With Starbucks planning to open 250 more Chicagoland locations (to add to the 330 existing ones), you can understand my vehemence. By the numbers, independent coffee shops have lost 11% of the market in the last four years. For those of us who rely on our indie for income, variety, and good coffee, that’s alarming.
One of the most touted things about Starbucks (notably more touted than the quality of their drinks) is their treatment of employees, who are eligible for health insurance, stock options, and a 401K – as well as advancement possibilities simply not available in your average mom-and-pop shop. A Starbucks employee union exists, though it seems that it has a contentious relationship with Starbucks itself. Starbucks has also, in the last few years, agreed to sell Fair Trade coffees, though it sounds like that decision only happened under some protest.
Last night, my coffeestore friends slightly revised our ban. We’re OK with people working for Starbucks – like our former manager, who routinely works 40+ hour weeks for no vacation, no benefits, and no chance of ever having any real authority due to the ongoing mismanagement by the owners – we’re just not OK with people buying coffee there.