An open letter to Starbucks partners from Rossann Williams, evp and president, U.S. company-operated business and Canada
When we began navigating the COVID-19 crisis together, we made a commitment to you to do everything we can to care for your health, safety and well-being. This focus allowed us all to take timely, proactive steps, including closing our cafes and expanding our safety protocols to exceed national and local health guidance whenever possible. As the crisis began to peak, forcing more than 38 million Americans out of work, we stood strong, together, and built the most comprehensive set of temporary COVID-19 benefits to support our partners, including Service Pay to recognize your hard work and efforts as we modified operations, Catastrophe Pay for you to take care of yourself and your family, as well as expanded mental health, childcare, food and beverage benefits. Most importantly, with Our Mission and Values at our core, we showed up for each other and our communities with courage, strength and resilience to do what we do best: inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
Our intent is to keep partners safe and employed as we rebuild our business, safely and responsibly. I am especially grateful for all the partners – in our stores, and our support centers – who continue to work around the clock to reimagine what’s possible as we modify stores and adapt to new ways of operating. Yet, even as we re-open more than 85% of our stores here in the U.S., and know from our experience in China, we are not immune to the widespread economic impacts of COVID-19. Customer routines and occasions have changed – for all retailers – and it will take some time to recover. As many of you are already seeing, the need for modified operations and reduced store hours as well as economic impacts and shifted consumer behaviors are unfortunately impacting our partner hours.
I know that many of you have been having open and honest conversations with your managers since early May about your individual needs and expectations. Your feedback has been critical as we consider how to best support partners who are not getting the hours they need, including implementing a new COVID-19 Leave of Absence policy for partners who prefer to take an unpaid leave through Sept. 30 and accrue up to 20 hours per week toward benefits eligibility. On this leave, partners will be able to keep their existing benefits like Lyra, Headspace, Spotify, Care@Work, the Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP), and our food/beverage benefits, and explore any COVID-19 federal and state unemployment compensation they may be eligible for, such as $600 per week of unemployment assistance under the CARES Act. In addition, Starbucks will pay your health care premiums in full while on leave, if you are currently enrolled in one of our plans.
Thousands of partners are already taking advantage of our 30-day Personal Leave of Absence policy and we want to help make sure partners can now make use of the COVID-19 Leave of Absence if they do not have enough hours available to them during this economic crisis. I know that every partner’s situation is deeply personal, and each store’s business needs look quite different. For instance, some partners may prefer to continue working in a store, even though we anticipate that there will initially be a reduced number of hours to offer partners as we rebuild the business. Other partners may prefer to take an unpaid COVID-19 Leave of Absence so they can leverage unemployment compensation and feel supported with their current healthcare plan and benefits, while taking the time to stay home or care for a loved one. I know some partners who are facing reduced hours may prefer to take this opportunity to pursue a different path outside Starbucks, and we are considering how to best support and care for these partners as well.
I know you will all have lots of questions for us, and please know that we will get you all of the information and details, with complete transparency, next week, so you have the support needed to fully understand the different options, based on your store’s needs as well as your personal preferences. This week, we are supporting your district managers in assessing what their stores need, given the economic impacts of COVID-19. Following that, next week, we will connect with your store managers, so they have all the details about our partner care options, including the COVID-19 Leave of Absence. Your store managers will then connect with each of you personally to understand your needs, expectations, and preferences, so we can do what’s best for each store and support you.
As I’ve said before, this is truly our defining moment – and it rings more true each day. Whether you are in the store, field or support center, we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to safely get our stores back in business so we can protect as many partner hours as possible. This is our time to come together and drive our best thinking on how we are going to create Best Moments for our customers, adapt to their new routines, and continue to be that beacon of hope in our communities.
As we do this, you have our word – and my personal commitment – that we will always keep partner care front and center, especially as we continue to weather the economic crisis ahead. Because we trust in you. We believe in you. And in my heart, I know that we will emerge from this stronger, more resilient than ever before.