·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary


Starbucks Workers Unionize, Enjoy Uncommon Benefits

— June 21, 2022

Starbucks consider its younger-generation employees in deciding to unionize and offer unique benefits.

Close to 150 Starbucks locations have opted to to have their workers unionize across the United States, collectively bargaining for better employee benefits, including more comprehensive health insurance and paid time off.  This decision comes after years of employees contending that they weren’t being paid for extra hours they were putting in ‘off the clock.’

In 2018, the California Supreme Court ruled that employers must pay their workers for small amounts of time they spend on tasks related to their positions after they’ve already clocked out of their shifts.  This decision revived lawsuits such as the one filed by Douglas Troester in, which had alleged Starbucks was requiring its employees to transmit sales data, set an alarm, bring in patio furniture or walk co-workers to their vehicles after they had already punched out.  He said this could often result in staying at the store an additional ten minutes after every shift and they should have been compensated for this time.  The decision to unionize will offer Starbucks’ employees even more protections that the California law.

Starbucks Workers Unionize, Enjoy Uncommon Benefits
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

In addition to having its workers unionize, Starbucks has also chosen to offer its employees out-of-the-box benefits over the years, including two of their favorites – Spotify and mental healthcare.  Instituting these less-common benefits has helped the company to attract and retain talent, particularly because a vast majority of its workforce is younger people.

Starbucks has actually allowed its employees to access a Spotify Premium membership for free since 2015.  In a press release at the time, Howard Schultz, the now-interim CEO, said, “For over 40 years, music has played a vital role in Starbucks Third Place experience – inspiring our partners and customers in unexpected ways that have helped to shape the global pop culture.  And we are delighted and honored to bring Spotify directly to our customers.  Throughout its history, Starbucks has worked closely with the music industry, offering a variety of artists a platform for their work.  By connecting Spotify’s world-class streaming platform into our world-class store and digital ecosystem, we are reinventing the way our millions of global customers discover music.”

The company began to expand mental health benefits in 2020, at which time it started to offer a number of free mental health therapy sessions via a partnership with Lyra Health.  The company entered into the partnership in response to a growing need for mental health services during the pandemic.

“Caring for Starbucks partners is at the core of our company.  We are constantly listening to our partners and exploring new ways to enhance the innovative benefits we offer to support them and their families,” said Kevin Johnson, Starbucks’ President and CEO at the time. “Mental health is a fundamental part of our humanity, and these resources will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and help break the stigma around this complex issue.”

“We listened to our partners in order to understand what they really need and would really use,” added Ron Crawford, Vice President of Global Benefits at Starbucks. “What we’ve created in partnership with Lyra Health directly addresses the feedback we’ve heard.”

One concern that Starbucks baristas continue to have despite the positive changes being made is that their managers are telling them that they could lose their transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits if they join a union.  Thus, even with uncommon benefits and amid the decision to have its workers unionize, the company will need to modify its policies in order to address concerns.


Starbucks and Spotify to Partner on Music Streaming Service

California Court’s Decision Regarding Wage Law Could Revive Starbucks Lawsuit

Starbucks employees’ two favorite benefits are Spotify and mental health support

Starbucks Transforms Mental Health Benefit for U.S. Employees

Join the conversation!