Starbucks Baristas Are Upset About This Change To Their Employee Perks

When COVID-19 started, Starbucks took steps to do right by its employees. As essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic, baristas at the world's largest coffee chain earned an additional $3 an hour if they showed up to work the drive-thru when the seating areas were closed (via Los Angeles Times). Employees who chose to stay home got a month of paid leave. Another COVID perk that wasn't as widely reported but was near and dear to the hearts of Starbucks "partners" (as the corporation calls its employees) was the free food and drinks every day of the week — whether or not the employee worked that day.

Well, after about a year and a half of the relaxed employee food and drink policy, the Starbucks higher-ups just told their partners that free drinks on the daily is coming to an end. A none-too-happy employee posted the news to Reddit on September 20. The change, which goes into effect on October 4, means employees can only get their free drink before, during, or right after their shift — not on days off. Employees can still get seven free food items a week, but they must all be rung up during the worker's shift — so again, no waltzing into any old Starbucks for free food on your day off. Redditor bajablastfreezy, who posted this information, added this commentary: "Honestly about to put in my two weeks after seeing this."

A COVID-19 perk, free drinks on days off for Starbucks employees, is going away

Several Starbucks workers gathered at bajablastfreezy's Reddit post to commiserate over the loss of free drinks on their days off — a pandemic perk that corporate decided to rescind, more than a year and a half after COVID-19 lockdowns began in the United States. Redditor bowserisapleb, who is labeled on the platform as a former Starbucks partner, didn't feel so bad for their ex-colleagues. "This always had an end date, so I'm not really sure why people are upset that it's happening," they commented. "Yes it sucks, but Starbucks always made sure we knew it was temporary."

Temporary, but the everyday "mark outs" for free food and drink also were necessary, according to others on the Reddit post. "You know how many of my coworkers rely on that free food to get an adequate amount of calories to SURVIVE," HotDogClouds said. Another former partner, QueenTahllia, expressed the same thought: "Starbucks doesn't pay enough to buy enough food outside of work, so you use your mark out to fill in the caloric gap."

According to ZipRecruiter, hourly wages for Starbucks workers vary by state, from $8.76 in North Carolina to $12.58 in Wyoming — simply not enough to take care of a family of four. The federal poverty level for a family that size is $26,500 a year (via PeopleKeep), or $12.74 an hour if you work 40 hours a week, every week of the year.