Starbucks's Health Care Policy Is Sickening

06/27/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • ZP Heller Director of Digital Communications, PAFA

Since Brave New Films launched Stop Starbucks last week, over 50,000 people watched the video, "What do Starbucks and Wal-Mart have in common?" and 15,000 signed the petition insisting CEO Howard Schultz support his workers' unionization efforts. The latest video, "Starbucks' Health Care Policy Is Sickening," takes the Wal-Mart comparison even further, considering Starbucks insures less than 42 percent of its employees in the US -- a rate lower than Wal-Mart. Watch as a former Starbucks worker explains how Starbucks routinely precludes employees from working the 20 hours a week (or 240 hours per quarter) necessary to qualify for the company's health insurance.

The shocking truth about Starbucks' health care policy and anti-labor practices belie the company's "progressive" veneer. Give Schultz a call and tell him to quit his anti-union ways: (206) 318-1575.

You can also enter the Stop Starbucks contest, which caught fire last week when Boing Boing, Bloggasm, and others credited Stop Starbucks with undercutting the company's recent multi-million dollar ad campaign.

And today, this campaign's viral spiral caught the attention of the LA Times:

The Starbucks chief executive, who actively cultivates a socially progressive image, is in the cross-hairs of a new-media campaign designed to bolster union representation at the retail giant and beyond.

For five years, Starbucks has been the target of a limited but sometimes nasty unionization drive that has tarnished its reputation for high-minded benevolence.

But last week, Brave New Films in Culver City launched an ambitious "Stop Starbucks" offensive, including a website ( featuring a four-minute video that was also posted on YouTube assailing Starbucks' treatment of workers, along with a petition demanding that Schultz "quit following Wal-Mart's anti-union example."

By week's end, almost 12,000 had signed the petition, and nearly 40,000 had viewed the video, organizers said.

The anti-Starbucks onslaught also featured a Twitter "hijacking" designed to undermine a Starbucks promotion in which contestants vied for prizes by submitting photos of themselves at Starbucks cafes. The virtual saboteurs forwarded the required "Twitpics" but hoisted signs blaring seditious mottos such as, "I want a union with my latte" or "Shultz makes millions, workers make beans."

So far, however, Starbucks has stuck to what I'm calling "Starbucks Speak," in which words mean the opposite of what the company pretends they mean. More from the LA Times:

The new-media assault, say Starbucks officials, presents a distorted portrait of management's collaborative relationship with its "partners," a reference to the company's 135,000 U.S. workers.

"Calling Starbucks a bad employer simply doesn't ring true with the overwhelming majority of our partners," said Jim Koster, Starbucks senior vice president.

Doesn't the word "partner" connote equitable treatment? A company should not fire, harass, or discriminate against its partners simply for partaking in union activities, nor should they go out of their way to deny partners enough hours to qualify for benefits like health care. Koster and Starbucks officials obviously have another definition of "partners," but what else would you expect from a company that offers workers an "Optimal Scheduling" policy with no set hours, a company that joined the "Committee for Level Playing Field" to lobby for a "compromise" on Employee Free Choice that would benefit employers at the expense of workers?

Give Schultz a call and tell him to support his workers' right to unionize: (206) 318-1575.