Two Starbucks baristas who delivered more than 30,000 signatures to the company last week say LGBTQ families are among those treated unfairly. Also, famed chef Alice Waters hopes Jeff Bezos will use Whole Foods to “change our food system overnight.”

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Niko Walker and Ryan Cervantes, two Starbucks baristas from Los Angeles, say they love working for the company and want to have careers there.

But Starbucks’ new parental leave policy doesn’t love them back, they say, providing no paid leave for store employees who are adoptive parents or spouses of birth mothers. That’s likely to affect them personally in the future, as Walker is transgender male and Cervantes is gay.

“In the next five years, I want to have children,” said Walker, who is 25. “I’m not going to have any benefits aside from personal time. I don’t think that’s fair.”

Last Thursday, they delivered petitions, including one with nearly 30,000 signatures, to Starbucks headquarters. They met with Ron Crawford, the company’s vice president of global benefits, who agreed to take part in a conference call to hear how store employees are affected by the policy.

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Earlier this year, Starbucks announced that it would be expanding its parental leave policy starting in October. The expanded benefits give more pay to both store and corporate employees who are birth mothers.

But it’s far more generous to corporate employees. And it offers no paid leave to store employees who are non-birth parents — including fathers, spouses and foster and adoptive parents. (Corporate employees who are not birth mothers, in contrast, can take 12 weeks of leave at 100 percent pay.)

The discrepancy has already drawn fire from baristas who want equal benefits for both corporate and store employees, and also from PL+US, an advocacy organization that pushes for paid leave across the U.S.

Now Walker and Cervantes say the policy is unfair to LGBTQ families as well, in part because they’re more likely to adopt or use methods such as surrogacy.

Walker and Cervantes plan on handing out fliers and stickers outside Starbucks stores near the Pride parade route Sunday, as well as talking to Starbucks baristas at those stores about their parental-leave experiences.

Reggie Borges, a Starbucks spokesman, said the company will not be making any changes to the parental-leave plan before it takes effect Oct. 1.

It’s too early to consider changes without seeing who takes advantage of the benefits and how they work out, he said.

Less than 1 percent of the company’s store employees have used parental-leave benefits over the last two years, Borges said.

That said, “we’re always evaluating the voice of our partners and the insights that they offer,” he said. “We have to look at it comprehensively.”

Starbucks’ policy is more generous than those of many other retailers, few of which offer the same benefits to store and corporate employees. (Nordstrom is one that does.)

Walker, who’s been with Starbucks seven years, says the company’s benefits, which include those for transgender health, are great. His co-workers have been supportive when he told them he was transitioning from female to male, a process he started about eight years ago.

Janet I. Tu: jtu@seattletimes.com

Whole Food deal a plus, chef says

Amazon.com’s $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods has generated plenty of chatter in the past week, from retail analysts warning about the impending doom of the grocery store as we know it to antitrust activists complaining that Amazon is becoming way too big.

Celebrity chef Alice Waters, owner of the legendary Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse and a pioneer of the locally grown food movement, added her two cents to the discussion, saying the acquisition could allow Amazon to revolutionize the entire food industry.

“With the acquisition of Whole Foods and the ubiquitous network of Amazon — you have an unprecedented opportunity to change our food system overnight,” she posted on a Twitter note directed to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. “It is time to demand that produce comes from farmers who are taking care of the land, to require meat and seafood to come from operations that are not depleting natural resources, and to support the entrepreneurial endeavors of those American farmers and food makers who do not enjoy federal subsidies.”

It remains to be seen whether such a transformation is feasible, even with Amazon’s deep pockets, appetite for risk and technological powers.

Although the success of Whole Foods catapulted the nationwide availability of organic foods to a new level, the company remains a relatively small chain with low single-digit market share in the grocery business, and has been struggling for years. Amazon would have to turn that ship around.

On the other hand, the organic-food sector as a whole is growing briskly, at a rate of 8.3 percent in 2016, representing 5.3 percent of U.S. food sales, according to the Organic Trade Association. But that pace of growth has stressed the major food retailers who simply can’t find enough organic food to meet demand.

“We cannot get enough organics to stay in business day in and day out,” Costco Wholesale CEO Craig Jelinek told investors in 2016 at a shareholder meeting. So the company decided to go upstream and invest alongside farmers to help expand the organics supply.

Amazon, which declined to comment, has been known to invest upstream — lending money to merchants operating on its e-commerce site in order to help them increase their inventory. Would it pursue a similar goal with organics farmers? Waters seems to think so.

Organic food producers “have the same amazing spirit that propelled you and (Whole Foods CEO) John Mackey to success. It’s time to do the right thing for our country, our farmers, and our planet. And we are all here to help you do it!,” she wrote on Twitter.

— Ángel González: agonzalez@seattletimes.com