Starbucks' reversal of a plan to require its U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing has sparked controversy among its loyal clients, as well as baristas on the front lines of the pandemic.
The Seattle coffee giant initially recommended that its workers get vaccinated by February 9th, in accordance with guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), while the unvaccinated would have to submit to weekly testing.
However, the blueprint was scrapped after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Biden administration’s efforts to compel companies to adopt that type of mandate.
“We respect the Court’s ruling and will comply,” John Culver, Chief operating officer and group president for North America at Starbucks, said in a memo to employees. In the note, Culver emphasized that the company will follow local requirements and that workers are still encouraged to get vaccinated and boosted.
Even without the ruling, the “vast majority” of Starbucks over 200,000-strong U.S. employees are now fully vaccinated, the executive added.
But the coffee giant's reversal still isn't sitting well with some customers, and a subset of its workforce. In recent days, the hashtag "boycott Starbucks" trended on Twitter, with some social media users refusing to patronize a place which does not require employee vaccinations.
Starbucks, which is no stranger to finding itself in the crosshairs of culture battles, is also facing a growing effort of stores trying to unionize. Two weeks ago, some employees at the first unionized Starbucks in Buffalo, New York walked off the job due to workers raising “COVID safety concerns that the company rebuffed.”
Starbucks Workers United, the union representing the two Buffalo-area stores, expressed their disappointment in the company’s reversal on vaccine mandates, which the group says was made without their feedback.
However, a few workers encouraged protesters to find more productive ways to back the coffee chain's employees.
“We truly appreciate the care and concern our community shares with us regarding Starbucks’ decision to axe the vaccine rule," said Kylah Clay, a barista at a Boston-area location.
"Its up to customers on whether they choose to boycott, but if you’re looking for some tangible ways to help your baristas, get vaccinated, donate KN95 masks, complain to corporate, and cheer on the folks fighting for a voice in the company,” Clay added.
A Starbucks representative declined to comment to Yahoo Finance beyond Culver's letter to workers.
SOURCE: Yahoo Finance
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