In October, Starbucks announced that it would raise its employees wages in January of this year. It promised to increase starting wages for new employees but also to give “all baristas and shift supervisors…a pay increase.”
Seasoned employees were initially optimistic. But those hopes have dimmed after the actual numbers were revealed. While new and recent hires have been getting significant raises, those who have worked at the company for years told ThinkProgress that they were getting much smaller increases, sometimes meaning they were making just barely more than brand new hires.
Leslie, who has worked at Starbucks as a barista for more than two and a half years, got a 2.5 percent raise, which came out to just an extra 21 cents per hour. When the announcement first came out, she was hopeful a pay increase would allow her to quit her second job and reduce her stress. But she can’t do it with what she was given. “I needed 42 cents to quit my job,” she said. Twenty-one cents, on the other hand, “isn’t going to change my life, that’s for sure.” Now she feels stuck with her current situation, as she can’t give up Starbucks’s generous health benefits or tuition assistance for her current education, both of which she is grateful for.
She also just found out that a coworker who has been at the store less than six months started at close to what she had been making after two and a half years. “It’s insulting that someone could just walk through the door [and] make more money than people who have been with you for a year, year and a half,” she said.
Matt has also worked as a Starbucks barista for two and a half years and echoed Leslie’s experience. While the increases varied by region, in his area he said that starting pay went up by a dollar, which was about a 13 percent increase for someone who had just been hired at the previous starting pay. On the other hand, anyone making above that only got a 2.5 percent raise. “These people aren’t trained yet, in fact we’re the ones training them,” he said. “Why are they getting such a substantial raise over someone who doesn’t need training?”
Starbucks doesn’t refute these stories. Linda Mills, director of corporate communications, explained, “This wasn’t a one-size-fits all approach. With 125,000 employees across the U.S., you’re going to see some variety of increases.” She pointed out that all employees at every level, in every area, and at every performance level were given a raise. But the difference in numbers was due to “a number of different contributors in the marketplace to make decisions for each individual employee.”
She noted that the company has added two new bonuses that employees can earn: one for those who train their coworkers and another for “partner of the quarter.” She also pointed to the other benefits that the company offers, including affordable health care, stock options, 401(k) matching, the new tuition coverage program, and free drinks and food during shifts. “We really look at the full package,” she said.
But frustration among experienced employees continues despite the benefits. One employee, Megan Jochum, created a petition on Coworker.org after a conversation among employees on Facebook asking the company to give seasoned workers a raise that is more in line with those for starting workers. It had garnered nearly 7,500 signatures as of Wednesday morning.
The feeling of frustration, Leslie explained, came from the company raising workers’ expectations. “Maybe we got our hopes too high,” she said. But “it was touted as some almost life-changing thing, they made it sound like it was going to be something far more significant than 2.5 percent.” Getting her actual raise felt like “a slap in the face.” Matt also felt that the raises had been “hyped up” beyond what was actually announced.
Employees are also frustrated by another change: before, they were given reviews and the opportunity to get a raise every six months. Now reviews will be annual, and they expressed uncertainty about whether that would reduce their overall yearly raises. “Personally, I can get over the disproportionate raise,” Matt said. But the new review schedule “takes away some incentive,” he said. It could be enough to push him to find another job, despite the fact that he enjoys the other benefits. “I’ll probably stay for at least another year, but if the [annual] increases aren’t substantial…I’ll probably be looking elsewhere over time.”
Starbucks’s Mills explained that employees should still be able to get the annual raises they would have under the old system with yearly reviews. “These high-performing partners are going to…be eligible for the same amount with annual evaluations that they were twice a year,” she said. She also noted that the company implemented more one-on-one conversations with store managers throughout the year that will be opportunities for promotions, which would come with pay increases.
Employees plan to keep pushing the company on the raises. “I figure if enough people are dissatisfied and voice their opinion on it, Starbucks does tend to listen to their employees a little bit better than most companies do,” Matt said. “Hopefully they might hear our voices and try to fix things.”
Leslie is going further. “I’ve said something to my manager, but he essentially told me that it was out of his hands,” she said. “I have [CEO] Howard [Schultz]’s email, and I’m planning on sending him something.”