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09/23/2015 | Restoring a Fair Workweek

The Grind: Striving for Scheduling Fairness at Starbucks

A 2015 nationwide survey of Starbucks workers reveals that the company is not living up to its commitment to provide predictable, sustainable schedules to its workforce. Starbucks’ frontline employees bear the brunt of the management imperative to minimize store labor costs, which takes precedence over attempts to stabilize work hours, provide healthy schedules, and to ensure employees have real input into their working conditions.

Published By

Aditi Sen and Carrie Gleason
    The Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) works to create equity, opportunity, and a dynamic democracy in partnership with high-impact base-building organizations, organizing alliances, and progressive unions. CPD strengthens our collective capacity to envision and win an innovative pro-worker, pro-immigrant, racial and economic justice agenda. The Fair Workweek Initiative, a collaborative effort anchored by CPD and CPD Action, is dedicated to restoring family-sustaining work hours for all working Americans. We partner with diverse stakeholders to advance an integrated set of strategies that include policy innovation, industry change, and high-road employer advocacy.


    In 2014, a New York Times investigation into Starbucks’ scheduling practices revealed a troubling disconnect between a company whose mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit” and work schedules that left its employees exhausted, stressed, and struggling to care for their families and get ahead. Starbucks responded quickly, committing to honor employee availability, deliver weekly schedules with greater notice, and ensure adequete rest between shifts.

    One year later, Starbucks employees across the country report that little has changed for them. Many Starbucks scheduling policies fail to reflect the
    company’s human-focused values, while other policies designed to promote sustainable schedules have been implemented inconsistently.

    Starbucks call its employees “partners,” yet this report reveals scheduling issues that call into question the effectiveness of its partnership between corporate leaders, managers, and employees.

    Nearly half of all surveyed partners reported receiving their schedule one week or less in advance, despite Starbucks’ stated policy to provide schedules at least ten days in advance. This practice prevents workers from being able to plan their lives, particularly when the timing of shifts and number of hours varies from week to week as surveyed employees reported.

    Employees reported that schedules that largely tracked their previous weeks’ schedules would allow them to make tentative future plans, but drastic changes week to week left them unable to budget or plan.

    One in four surveyed partners still had to work clopens (when they are scheduled to close one night and open the store early the next morning) or had coworkers in their stores who were assigned clopens. These Starbucks workers are at risk of sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

    Starbucks partners do not earn paid sick leave in their first year. Forty percent of partners reported facing barriers to taking sick days when they were ill. Several partners reported that they face pressure from managers to work while sick.

    Skeletal staffing stretches employees too thin to deliver the consistent customer-focused service on which the company prides itself. Many employees surveyed stated that they wanted to work more hours, but were denied by managers.

    Starbucks, unlike some companies, has committed to honoring employees’ limitations on their available work hours. But many employees said that their managers regularly disregard their availability.

    These survey results show that while some Starbucks partners do experience schedules that work for them and their families, far too many Starbucks employees across the country still struggle with unpredictable schedules, unstable,
    inadequate hours, and retaliation and insufficient access to earned sick time. Starbucks should establish basic protections to ensure stability, adequacy and predictability of employees’ schedules. The company should work with their employees and incorporate their input to provide work schedules that are as reliable as Starbucks' dedicated customer base.