One of the signs of the downturn and frugality is the pain through which Starbucks is going. Outlets are being closes as the heydeys of this global giant are now over. Sadly, they are taking it out on their employees. Slate reports that Starbucks now obliges full-time employees to be available 70% of the time they are open (roughly 80 hours per week), but guarantee them no hours in return. In essence, the Starbucks employees are enserfed unable to find a second job to make ends meet. An exerpt form the Slate article:
This new “philosophy” is called “Optimal Scheduling,” and it requires that “partners” (Starbucks-speak for employees) must dramatically increase their own flexibility. If they’d like to work full time, they must be available to work 70 percent of open store hours. (For a Starbucks open 16 hours a day, as is typical, this means 80.5 hours per week.) Many Starbucks employees say they want to work more hours; the new system could make it possible for those people to work more by downsizing those who can’t or don’t want to. Starbucks spokeswoman Tara Darrow says optimal scheduling is “a win-win for our customers and partners” that will lead to “more stable scheduling and more satisfied partners.”
Liberte Locke, a New York City barista, is not one of those “satisfied partners.” Why? Because, although she has opened up her entire day to Starbucks (from 4:15 a.m. to 11 p.m.), the company is “not guaranteeing any hours, not a single one.” She’s right: The fact that no hours are guaranteed, even for workers classified as “full time,” is underscored repeatedly in the company managers’ manual. The company is demanding almost all their time and, Locke says, “We are getting nothing in return.” Optimal scheduling amounts to a permanent booty call; only the most boorish boyfriend would insist on such conditions.
The new availability requirement could make it almost impossible for employees to have a second job, as many low-wage workers must in order to make ends meet. Erik Forman, who works at Starbucks in the Twin Cities’ Mall of America, says one of his fellow baristas opens McDonald’s and closes Starbucks every day. Another co-worker opens Starbucks and closes IKEA. As Liberte Locke points out, Starbucks “doesn’t pay enough to be someone’s livelihood,” especially with no hours guaranteed.
Being available 80.5 hours a week, Forman points out, will also be hard on “a student, a mother, or anyone who does anything besides working.” Workers who can’t make themselves available for the required number of hours will, within six months, lose their jobs. “It’s another way for [Starbucks] to thin the herd,” says Locke, “to have layoffs without calling them layoffs.”
True, and perhaps to be expected. Starbucks’ business isn’t booming. With consumer sentiment ranging from grim to terrified, who’s bold enough to pay $5 for coffee?
The demise of Starbucks (or at least its curtailment) is a sign of the coming wave of frugality as consumers will have to adjust to spending less and spending what money they have more wisely. However, I do feel bad for the barristas who are caught in the middle of it.