In what may be the fastest response to a piece of public-service journalism in recent memory, Starbucks announced it would change its policies surrounding the schedules of its workers in reaction to an article that appeared in the New York Times.
“We must do all we can to deliver the best for our partners because they deserve our very best,” Cliff Burrows, Starbucks’s group president in charge of U.S. stores, wrote in an e-mail to 130,000 employees, according to the Times. The e-mail went on to say that the company would be revising its scheduling procedures to make them more humane, that it would give employees at least a week’s notice about their schedules, and that it would eliminate the life-destroying practice of “clopening”—making a worker shut down the store for the night and return just a few hours later to open for the next day.
The article highlighted the impossible situation that millions of working parents, especially single mothers and fathers, face every day. Jannette Navarro, who’s raising her 4-year-old boy on her own, earns $9 an hour as a Starbucks barista and often doesn’t know which hours she’ll be working on a day-to-day basis, according to the Times piece. As any working parent knows, the ability to plan and arrange child care (in addition to paying for it) is a critical part of being able to hold down a job.
Reading about the maddening ways Starbucks would switch around Navarro’s hours, as well as making her stay late to close the store for the night and then return, after a long commute, only a few hours later to reopen, leaves the impression that the company doesn’t see its workers as human beings. It brings to mind another story that generated a lot of attention in July, when a single mother in South Carolina was arrested and charged with neglect after her child care fell through and she let her 9-year-old daughter play alone at a park while she worked her shift at McDonald’s.
There are going to be more stories like this until leaders of American corporations start to accept the changing realities of the workforce, and that probably won’t happen until a combination of policy pressure and public shame force them to do so.