Do As We Say, Not as We Do

April 17, 2014

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz recently warned an increase in the minimum wage could result in a reduction in the company’s famously generous employee benefits.  Schultz argues minimum wages should take into consideration the “total compensation” an employee receives, which in the case of Starbucks employees includes full health coverage, free food, bus passes, 401K, education assistance, stock rewards, bonuses and more—even for part-time workers.  Starbucks workers also earn tips.

Schultz’s candid remarks earned the company the ire of the “15 Now” organization, which lambasted Starbucks for paying workers “unsustainably low wages.”  The group issued a press statement demanding the company pay its workers a minimum wage of $15 per hour and calling for a series of protests at Starbucks stores across the nation.

Most Starbucks employees don’t share the view that Starbucks is exploiting them with “unsustainably low wages.”  The company is noted for its incredibly high “employee satisfaction” rate, perennially earning a spot on Forbes’ and Fortune’s annual “Best Companies to Work For” rankings. Starbucks employees say they "love that we can receive benefits and stock rewards at 20 hours/week" and rave about the "potential for anyone to move up the ladder." CEO Schultz has a 87% approval rating from Starbucks employees.

While quick to attack Starbucks for not paying every worker $15 per hour, “15 Now” has been conspicuously silent on the news that “Yes for Early Success,” a campaign supporting Initiative 107, which would mandate a $15 minimum wage for preschool and other early childcare workers, does not pay its workers $15 per hour.   The vast majority of the campaign’s workers (75%) are making considerably less than the $15 wage the group is advocating.  And at least one worker for the campaign is not satisfied with the discrepancy, tipping off the political blog Publicola to the hypocrisy.

The hypocrisy doesn’t stop there.  The Dori Monson Show reported that “Working America,” one of the organizations pushing a $15 minimum wage, is advertising jobs for Field Organizers in Seattle.  The wage—just $12.25 per hour.

Where is the outrage from 15 Now over the “unsustainably low wages” being paid to these workers?  Where is the demand those groups start every worker at $15 per hour?