It’s possible that I was brainwashed by Starbucks when I worked there for half a year, because I don’t typically support behemoth corporations (read my last editorial about the evil cigarette company, Camel). Perhaps the company laced my Extra Hot Triple Decaf Grande with Whip Soy Vanilla Latte with a special Starbucks potion to get me to write this editorial. Well, that I don’t know. But what I do know is that an estimated 45 million Americans do not have health care insurance, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Now Starbucks may be pretentious, over-priced and on every street in every major metropolitan area (there must be nearly 100 on Market Street alone), but at least the corporation offers full benefits to employees who work 20 hours a week or more. Employees can work part-time and still get full dental and prescription medical and vision coverage.
For only 20 hours a week of Frappucino-making, Starbucks seems to be a tad more generous than most would assume, considering most workplaces are not as charitable. In fact, 81 percent of uninsured employees are not offered benefits by their employers or are not eligible for benefits, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a group that studies healthcare in the United States.
In an MSNBC article, Howard Schultz, chairman of Starbucks, mentioned that the company will spend more on healthcare than on the raw materials needed to brew its coffee. The healthcare crisis in this country needs to be addressed by individual companies, because obviously, the government is not going to help out in that regard.
Starbucks also sells fair trade coffee beans. In 2004, Starbucks purchased 4.8 million pounds of Fair Trade coffee, according to the company’s Web site. Fair trade means that coffee growers in developing countries are guaranteed to have good working conditions and are paid adequate income to support their families. Fair trade coffee is also grown organically.
Even though Starbucks is expensive, it’s reassuring to know that some of the money you’re spending is helping, not hurting, farmers in developing countries. Employees who are at least working full time should be eligible for health benefits; more companies, both big and small, need to emulate Starbucks’ social responsibility. With giant companies comes corporate responsibility; Starbucks may be huge and like any large corporation; it certainly has its problems. But from what I’ve encountered, it seems to treat its employees, or “partners” as they’re called, fairly well.
So now that the couches are gone at Dunkin’ Donuts on Liacouras Walk, there is need for a central place for students to gather and sip their coffee before class. The coffee stands around campus don’t really provide the soothing atmosphere of a coffee shop. It’s not completely horrible that Starbucks is bringing gourmet coffee to campus, especially for the coffee addicts who are sick of the motor oil that 7-Eleven sells. Also, not every student has health insurance. Working at the campus Starbucks would be another option along with university-sponsored health insurance plans.
Ellen Minsavage can be reached at email@example.com.