Paid family leave at Starbucks: The headlines vs. the reality

The author, Starbucks barista Kristen Picciolo, had a baby last year. She says the company's paid leave policy, which offers corporate employees more time off than baristas, is inequitable. Photo courtesy of Kristin Piccolo

Starbucks barista Kristen Picciolo, had a baby last year. She says the company’s paid leave policy, which offers corporate employees more time off than baristas, is inequitable. Photo courtesy of Kristin Piccolo

Starbucks got headlines for announcing a new employee family leave policy. But as this story shows, a splashy press release can mask real inequities in company policy. That’s why Washington state needs a paid family and medical leave program that people can count on, no matter where they work:

“My name is Kristen and I am barista at a Starbucks in Medina, Ohio. Next week I am traveling to Seattle with my 3-month-old baby so I can attend the Starbucks annual shareholder meeting.

“Working at Starbucks is hard work, but it’s fulfilling, and I love my coworkers and my regular customers. That’s why it’s surprising, even to me, that I’m speaking out about a company policy that just isn’t right. But major life events have a way of opening your eyes to what’s important.

“Last year when I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I was thrilled and excited. Like all expecting parents, I was worried about making sure the baby would be healthy and safe. I didn’t realize I had to worry about whether I would even be able to bond with my own child. It wasn’t until I was actually in labor at the hospital that I found out I wouldn’t get paid a single day for my maternity leave, being a few hours short to qualify. And that even if I had qualified, the leave I got would have been paltry compared to the time that workers in the corporate headquarters get.

“Starbucks recently made headlines with a new policy that provides up to 12 weeks of fully paid parental leave, and an additional 6 weeks for birth recovery. But when you read past the headlines, it turns out that expecting parents who work in the stores—baristas like me—get much less, or nothing at all. New birth moms get only 6 weeks paid leave—and only when they qualify for a base number of hours. New dads and adoptive parents don’t get even a single day.”

Our state legislators have a chance to make that happen *this year* — but they need to be reminded why this policy matters in the first place. Do you have a personal experience about how paid family and medical leave would have helped you or another family? Please share your story with the Washington Work and Family Coalition: http://waworkandfamily.org/share-your-story/.

Full Story: The Stranger »

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