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Joerg Moellenkamp (CC-BY)

Starbucks baristas share ‘horrors’ of continuing to work

'It's impossible not to pass illness while working as a barista.'


Brooke Sjoberg


Posted on Mar 19, 2020   Updated on Mar 19, 2020, 8:28 pm CDT

After Starbucks implemented new rules and store practices to help mitigate the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), some employees are calling them ineffective and saying their safety is still at risk.

New practices include harsher cleaning guidelines, removing seating to make stores to-go only, and closing stores in highly populated areas and coronavirus-stricken areas. Starbucks employees are now tweeting that these measures may be protecting customers, but they leave employees at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Partners also claim they are experiencing difficulty in securing “catastrophe pay,” which is paid leave for workers who have been exposed to the coronavirus, are symptomatic, or need to care for others who are sick. Starbucks recently announced it is offering workers catastrophe pay.

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Update 8:30pm CT, March 19: A Starbucks representative told the Daily Dot, the company is “temporarily expanding catastrophe for COVID-19 partner care.” Whether or not they are showing symptoms associated with COVID-19, if partners come in close or prolonged contact with “someone in their store or household who has” been diagnosed with the illness or has the illness themselves, they are eligible for 14 days of catastrophe pay.

For partners who have not had contact with someone who has been diagnosed, but is still exhibiting symptoms, they can use temporary catastrophe pay “for any shifts over a three-day period,” followed by resources such as sick pay, vacation, or personal time off.

Partners over the age of 60, or who have underlying health conditions, are also eligible for 14 days of catastrophe pay should they choose self-isolate with a doctor’s “noted recommendation.”

Employees are accusing the coffee giant of only offering it once they’ve proved they have tested positive for the coronavirus or have been exposed to someone who has.

Other accusations include sending baristas from stores that have closed to work at other locations, instead of home to quarantine.

“This means there are around 10+ baristas right now, making social distancing impossible,” Twitter user @ComradeSxm wrote of Chicago-area Starbucks stores.

A current barista shared that she was told her store location closed for the “protection” of staff, but then the employees were relocated to open locations.

“Tell me how my mall Starbucks closed to ‘protect us’ and stop the spread of COVID but instead of catastrophe pay they’re relocating us to other Starbucks where we will be in the same situation as before,” user @ana_socks wrote.

Current and former baristas are also sharing stories of previous illnesses being passed between partners.

“Worked at Starbucks for years,” Twitter user @mattiercox wrote. “There’s so many surfaces that share between baristas— touch screens, cleaning wipes, even headsets! I remember one person had to come to work with strep and everyone got it. It’s impossible not to pass illness while working as a barista.”

In addition to sharing stories of ineffective COVID-19 countermeasures, a petition to “suspend all business hours, at every location, while continuing to pay hourly and salary workers, during the spread of the coronavirus” has garnered over 22,000 signatures.

“I believe that it is fundamentally unsafe for us to be working in a food service environment at this time,” one signer and barista, identified as Travis C., commented on the petition. “Any one of us could be an asymptomatic carrier, or a carrier who has not yet shown symptoms and spread it to our fellow workers or to our customers. If Apple can shut down for two weeks, so can Starbucks. Apple sells electronics. We sell things that you eat. That go into your body. Make the responsible choice and shut the doors, Starbucks.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Starbucks and multiple people mentioned in this article but did not receive a response by publication time.


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*First Published: Mar 19, 2020, 3:45 pm CDT