A lot of people would consider their morning coffee essential. Under current circumstances, though, everyone’s re-evaluating what things they truly can’t live without. Coffee may be one of them, but given that anyone can make it at home and Covid-19 has forced non-essential business to close, does Starbucks really need to be open?
That’s the question asked by a surging petition asking the coffee behemoth to close in the face of global pandemic. “Starbucks should suspend all business hours, at every location,” it reads, “while continuing to pay hourly and salary workers, during the spread of the coronavirus.”
In case you hadn’t realized, the company recently converted many of its locations to “to go,” removing all seating while keeping open its drive-thru and mobile ordering options. It’s also reduced operating hours in some areas with clusters of Covid-19. It also expanded what it calls “catastrophe pay” for anyone affected by the virus.
For many Starbucks workers, that’s not enough. The petition argues that because the virus is airborne, even increased cleaning and sanitation isn’t likely to prevent its spread. That puts both workers and customers at risk. With many stores located near hospitals, which are not closed during the pandemic, Starbucks employees may be even more at risk.
With limited testing available, and the fact that people without symptoms can be infected and spread the virus, Starbucks partners (as it insists on calling them) could be making the outbreak worse. “The moral thing to do,” the petition concludes, “would be to suspend business, while paying partners, until there is a grip on the virus.”
“Coffee is not essential at all. Starbucks is not essential,” Anyia Johnsonm, the author of the petition and a barista in Philadelphia, told VICE News. “And yet we’re still open.” The petition seems to have struck a chord: in less than a week, it’s gathered nearly 35,000 signatures.
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