Starbucks sweetens worker pay in select locations as coronavirus crisis escalates

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Starbucks is boosting the wages of its employees who choose to work during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On Friday evening, Starbucks (SBUX) began temporarily suspending indoor access to all of its 15,000-plus U.S. cafés, and moved to drive-thru and delivery only. For workers still on the job, however, the coffee giant is sweetening their hourly pay as COVID-19 cases swamp the country.

“Partners who are able and choose to continue to come to work will be eligible for Starbucks Service Pay, an additional $3 per hour for shifts worked as scheduled Mar. 19-Apr. 21,” the company said in an update on Sunday.

“If a partner has made the decision to not work at this time, they can continue to use catastrophe pay through April 19,” Starbucks added.

About 60% of the 15,000 Starbucks stores in the U.S. offer drive-thru service. The coffee chain offers delivery in partnership with Uber Eats across 49 markets in the U.S. — but is also keeping cafés in and around hospitals open, as an exception to serve healthcare workers.

In a letter on Sunday, CEO Kevin Johnson said that on Saturday morning after the announcement about closing access to the cafés that partners “in every region around the U.S. and Canada showed up before dawn to open drive-thru-only experiences at their stores.”

“They filled in for each other at short-staffed nearby stores. Our stores that could open, did. Our partners showed up. They showed up for their communities,” Johnson wrote.

In response to COVID-19, Starbucks has expanded its existing sick pay and personal time off benefits to include catastrophe pay. The company said it would pay its employees for 30 days whether they choose to come to work or stay home.

Johnson wrote that “no partner should be asked to choose between work and their health,” adding that “not every decision is a financial one.”

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.