Starbucks Is Raising Employees’ Wages, Following Other Companies’ Footsteps

It doesn’t look like any of the presidential candidates will start working on overhauling the federal minimum wage anytime soon, which is why it’s a good (albeit very American) thing that companies like Starbucks are raising the minimum wage for their employees. In a statement issued Monday to Starbucks’ “partners” (that’s what the coffee company calls its employees, which is completely fucking absurd, but that’s another story altogether), Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote that starting Oct. 3, employees will see an increase in their base pay of at least 5 percent. The company’s also doubling the stock award it gives to employees who put in at least two years, which means a total increase of up to 15 percent pay for various employees.

Shultz wrote that “the range of increase will be determined by geographic and market factors and is intended to ensure Starbucks remains a retail employer of choice in all the markets where we operate.” So, it’s still contingent on geography and demographics, but even a 5 percent increase is something. According to Glassdoor, the average Starbucks barista makes just over $9 dollars an hour, while shift managers bring in about $12. So with the base increase, baristas still won’t be hitting the $10 an hour mark. But, hey, every little bit helps, right?

Groan. Right now the federal minimum wage is $7.25, as long as the employer offers health benefits, and the Raise The Wage Act introduced last year would make the federal minimum wage $12 by 2020. On Tuesday, presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton spoke about raising that wage quicker — but let’s not hold our breath. Because $7.25 is a travesty already, to make it just $12 over four years? That’s not filling anyone’s bellies or savings accounts.

And I’m of the political bias that companies like Starbucks shouldn’t have to raise their wages to make up for shitty government policy (but hey, that’s just me, people). But they do seemingly have their employees’ backs more than lots of other companies. They offer lots of healthcare options (Shultz also announced a new database that will make it easier for employees to search and purchase coverage, too), and they offer to pay for online college classes. Many call these “perks.” I call them Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ old presidential platform, but let’s not get into semantics.

So, even if the 5 percent increase seems a little weak, there are worse places to work than Starbucks, where they actually seem to understand why people work in retail — to pay for life, get health insurance, and support themselves while they get degrees to get jobs with actual salaries and not hourly pay. Also, customers are really paying for the increase in wages, which is just fine with me, as long as it gets done.

Other major corporations have outpaced Starbucks in terms of paying a little more than the federal minimum wage. Target, McDonalds, Gap, and Ikea have all gone over the $10 per hour mark. So, great. Many also reportedly cut hours to make up the difference, so let’s not get too busy cheering corporations for throwing retail employees a bone — they still have to find a way to make a profit, just like they would if the wage was federally mandated.

Corporations and government need to work together to talk about what a “living” wage is and who can help pick up the slack so a barista or cashier working eight hour shifts can save money, take care of their family, and go to school without living below the poverty line.