LGBTQ families are among those who suffer because Starbucks store employees don’t get parental leave unless they are a birth mother, say two L.A. baristas who delivered 30,000 signatures to the company.
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.”
On 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.
The two baristas 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.
He and Cervantes just want to push the company on this issue, “make them understand how it’s affecting people,” said Cervantes, who is 20.
“I don’t want to be caught in a situation where I have to leave a career I love because another employer offers that benefit,” Cervantes said.