On the heels of revealing its “Trip Shot Reinvention” plan, which includes reaching 55,000 stores across the globe, Starbucks on Monday unveiled a suite of enhanced benefits designed to offer employees “a bridge to a better future,” the company said. This includes the ability to accrue paid vacation time sooner, continued investments in pay, financial well-being and skills-building benefits, partner-centric scheduling, and the introduction of the first North America Barista Championship.

Starbucks has invested more than $1 billion since last year to uplift employee and store experience. It said Monday hourly turnover rates are now below pre-COVID-19 levels. Additionally, Starbucks deployed more than 20 percent of profits from fiscal 2023 back into employee measures through wage increases, training, and new equipment.

The company claims, coupled with higher wages and the expansion of hours, these efforts have not only resulted in lower turnover, more meaningful improvement in customer connection scores year-over-year, but have also lifted hourly total cash compensation by nearly 50 percent since fiscal 2020.

A breakdown of the new benefits:

On the vacation accrual front, starting in February, hourly workers will start to collect time 90 days after hour.

Starbucks moved its wage floor for U.S. retail hourly employees to $15 per hour in 2022 and has continued to add incremental increases, the company said. Today, the average wage is roughly $17.50 per hour. The barista wage range sits between $15–$24 per hour and total compensation, with benefits, of about $27 per hour. Effective January 1, eligible U.S. retail hourlies will see an incremental pay increase, with at least a 3 percent jump and differentiated pay for eligible tenured partners, Starbucks said.

Eligible partners with two to five years on the job will get least 4 percent and those with five-plus years will appreciate at least a 5 percent boost.

The North America Barista Championship kicks off in February and will be open to baristas and shift supervisors in participating U.S. and Canada stores, as well as eligible Siren Retail locations. Starbucks didn’t provide further details, only to say it would give employees “the opportunity to showcase the unique role they play in bringing the Starbucks experience to life for customers each day, demonstrating their commitment to connection, craft, and community.”

Starbucks added, “to further support partner career growth and mobility,” it would explore credential and certification programs to build on its current College Achievement Plan, which has more than 23,000 employees enrolled, working toward a bachelor’s degree via partnership with Arizona State University’s online degree program. Tuition and fees are covered upfront for employees. Thus far, 10,000 employees have graduated and 20 percent of those enrolled are first-generation college students. Starbucks set a goal to help at least 25,000 partners by 2025, with an expected investment of about $250 million or more.

The company will also further its footing in financial wellness. These are grounded with equity ownership in Starbucks through annual “Bean Stock” grants, which have awarded more than $2 billion in additional earnings to partners, to date. Starting in January, employees can sign up to receive a new “Siren Card,” a premium card, Starbucks said, offering a high-tech banking experience designed exclusively for employees. Built with cred.ai and Visa USA, the Siren Card comes packed with exclusive tech features, the world’s first “automatic credit score optimizer,” 24/7 support, and the guarantee to never pay account fees or interest.

The last note, around partner-centric scheduling, will be an effort rooted in collecting a range of preferred, minimum, and maximum hours “to build a complete picture of partner preferences and assist store managers in scheduling and managing their workforce,” Starbucks said.

The improved scheduling protocol, it added, would enable employees to contribute to the personalization of their own ideal schedules.

Starbucks acknowledged these changes to wages, benefits, and/or terms and conditions “may not be unilaterally implemented” for employees in stores with organizing underway and could be subject to collective bargaining in good faith for those in units with certified union representation.

Starbucks’ ongoing back-and-forth with Workers United made headlines in mid-October when the company sued the union in federal court in Iowa, saying a pro-Palestinian social media post around the Israel-Hamas war damaged the chain’s reputation. It sued for trademark infringement, demanding Workers United stop calling itself “Starbucks Workers United.” It also asked the group halt using a circular green logo that resembles Starbucks’ logo.

Workers United filed suit in response, asking a federal court in Pennsylvania to rule it can continue to use Starbucks’ name and the visual branding. It also claimed Starbucks defamed the union by implying it supports terrorism.

Starbucks Workers United has operated under that named since August 2021. A few months later, it unionized its first location in Buffalo, New York. At least 366 U.S. locations have voted to unionize since.

Starbucks said it prefers to remain union-free but continues to invite Workers United to the bargaining table. The company recently celebrated reaching a third union contract in Canada with the United Steelworkers and said contract negotiations are progressing well with the Teamsters for a store in Pennsylvania.

In response to Monday’s broader announcement, Starbucks Workers United member Alex Yeager said in an emailed statement that, “once again,” Starbucks was responding to its bargaining demands. “But they’re implementing them in union stores and denying these new benefits to workers in stores that are unionizing or already voted to join the union.”

“This is against the law, and there are already several consolidated charges from the National Labor Relations Board for benefit packages Starbucks has denied union workers—such as credit card tipping—since we started our campaign,” Yeager said.

A spokesperson from Starbucks responded in an email to QSR that the company, “every week,” invites Workers United to contract bargaining sessions. “And every week,” the company said, “the union has chosen not to show up at the bargaining to negotiate. We are committed to prioritizing our partners needs wherever allowed, even if Workers United will not.”

Starbucks added all union-represented stores will receive annual wage increases consistent with its practice of providing yearly wage increases. “To be absolutely clear,” the spokesperson said, “there are partners in union-represented stores that last year received raises ranging from 3–5 percent based on tenure, and thus will again this year.”

“Starbucks has adhered to long-standing legal obligations, which require the company to differentiate between unionized or organizing partners and partners in all other stores,” the company continued.

On November 3, Starbucks appealed September recommendations from an NLRB judge. “We strongly maintain that, by the NLRB’s own standards, an employer may not unilaterally make changes to the terms or conditions of employment for unionizing or newly unionized employees,” Starbucks said at the time. “Doing so would be an inherent threat to the integrity of the election and the bargaining process. We also maintain that it is lawful to grant such wage increases and benefit enhancements to partners in all other stores.”

Yeager called Monday’s new benefits “a victory of our campaign” that “show that when workers join together and raise our voices, we can force powerful companies to make changes they’d never make if we did not stand up.”

“We’ve been speaking out and going on strike for scheduling changes for more than two years,” he said. “And today, Starbucks responded to our calls.”

However, he reiterated his belief Starbucks’ announcement was a “clear continuation of its unprecedented, illegal union busting campaign.”

“Withholding benefits from unionized stores is against the law, and we will file an unfair labor practice charge in response,” he said.

“Also, announcing wage increases of 3 percent days after the company trumpeted its fourth quarter revenue was up 11 percent to a record $9.4 billion is tone deaf,” Yeager added. “This is exactly why we are fighting for a union. As our sisters and brothers at the UAW proved so powerfully, record profits should mean record contracts. And that’s why we’re continuing to organize. That’s why we’re going on strike later this month across the country. You can only win what you’re willing to fight for.” 

Starbucks countered by saying, as noted earlier, it has invested more than $1 billion to improve the employee experience and continues to benefit from lower attrition and higher tenure in U.S. stores. By the end of fiscal 2025, it expects to double hourly income in the U.S. versus 2020, through more hours and higher wages.

“Next week, the company will share details on a new bundle of partner experience enhancements in the U.S, solidifying its status in providing the best portfolio of benefits across the industry for hourly retail work,” the company stated.

On the status of labor negotiations, Starbucks said, as of November, it “continues to be disappointed that Workers United has not made any effort to bargain for more than 300 stores they represent and in the last four months—since June 14, 2023 to be exact—has failed to agree to a single company invitation to bargain a contract.”

“As is well-documented,” Starbucks added, “in the U.S. labor contracts are complex documents, and the first contract, on average, takes more than a year to complete.”

The company said it has proposed more than 500 single-store bargaining sessions to date and has appeared in-person and “ready to bargain” at more than 120 sets of negotiations.

“Workers United has only ever confirmed 23 percent of the bargaining sessions proposed by the company and this year has only met with the company just one time each for eight separate stores,” Starbucks said.

“This year, Starbucks met for contract negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters more than a dozen times and reached more fourteen tentative agreements thus far for a store near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania they represent, and the company has reached a third collective bargaining agreement in Canada with the United Steelworkers,” the company said. “Starbucks remains ready to progress in-person negotiations with the unions certified to represent partners and encourages Workers United to respond to proposed dates for future store bargaining sessions. That way, parties can propose specific contract proposals tailored to the unique needs of store partners, jointly approve tentative agreements and progress negotiations towards complete contracts for each store.”

Employee Management, Fast Food, Story, Starbucks