Get a Degree at Starbucks

Career College Central Summary:

  • Plenty of companies offer their employees education assistance on better terms. Communications Workers at Verizon have negotiated $8,000 a year in tuition, to use at virtually any school. Workers don’t pay the upfront costs—Verizon does. These workers already have full-time, benefited jobs. They can improve their computer literacy, get a bachelor’s or master’s, or train for a new career. They can also take a two-year leave to go to school full-time, and still hold on to their benefits.
  • Of course, Verizon isn’t any more magnanimous than Starbucks. Workers won these benefits with militant organizing and strikes. Or look at unionized health care workers, who’ve won training and education funds that allow them to move up into higher-paying jobs in their field. This works, in part, because union hospitals offer decent-paying jobs. A nursing aide can afford to live off her wages while training to become a nurse.
  • Will this new program foster similar career advancement for Starbucks employees? Already, the company reports 70 percent of its employees are students or aspiring students.
  • But where will they advance to? Most U.S. job growth is low-wage: retail and food service. Baristas, shift supervisors, and store managers don’t see the big bucks the corporation makes. Students can’t all become CEO. Starbucks gets praise for offering health care to some part-time employees.
  • But workers report many are kept just below the 20-hour threshold. The majority of the company’s 150,000 employees are part-time. Starbucks says this is because part-time work allows them to pursue their interests. But looked at another way, it has built its empire on exactly the kind of jobs people are trying to escape by going to college. Now it has turned this vulnerability into a PR talking point: our employees are moving up, rather than our employees can’t make ends meet.
  • Meanwhile, its CEO made $29 million in 2012—and opposed the recent minimum wage hike in Seattle, where the company is headquartered. No wonder some Starbucks workers have been participating in the fast food strikes, demanding $15 and a union. 

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