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Starbucks baristas want equal family leave as corporate

Starbucks' headquarters is in Seattle, Wash. (AP)

Do babies care if their moms brew coffee or work at a desk? Should Starbucks care?

That’s the question posed by 80,000 people who signed a petition asking Starbucks to extend its new parental leave policy to its baristas. Among them is Kristin Piccolo of Ohio. The barista, and mother of a 4-month-old baby, traveled to Seattle to deliver the signatures at the company’s headquarters. On Tuesday, Piccolo made the delivery with Jessica, a Gig Harbor barista who is pregnant and a mother of three.

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“What I was doing here today was delivering the petition with signatures on it to Starbucks headquarters to open their eyes and extend their new parental leave policy to not only their corporate employees, but to baristas and store employees, as well,” Piccolo said.

“I’ve been working for Starbucks for a year now,” she said. ” … I did get six weeks of unpaid leave, then had to take personal leave for 30 days to extend that time. My baby needed bonding and breast feeding. It’s hard to leave and introduce a bottle to your child.”

The two baristas met with Starbucks officials to discuss the parental leave policy. Piccolo said that the meeting was positive, but there is a divide.

“They are definitely on our team, willing to listen,” Piccolo said. “But they also were pressing the fact they have great benefit policies already.”

Among those benefits are college payment programs and a 401K.

“They feel as if they have already asked partners from the stores what their needs are and that they are meeting their needs,” she said. “They didn’t feel as if this was a big enough issue they’ve been hearing from partners yet. But they need to hear it, that there are definitely enough people out there.”

The petition effort has been spearheaded by PLUS, a parental leave advocacy group.

Starbucks family leave

Starbucks’ new parental leave policy will go into effect in October. KIRO 7 reports that the main difference between baristas and corporate employees is that the corporate side gets more paid leave. Otherwise, they are allowed the same amount of time off.

KIRO 7 reports that the new Starbucks policy states:

• Birth mothers working at least 20 hours a week are eligible for six weeks of paid leave. This is for medical recovery.
• Store employees — including spouses and partners — will be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
• Non-store employees — including spouses and partners — will be eligible for 12 weeks of paid leave. This is to attract and maintain non-store talent.

Piccolo said that the policy should be the same for all Starbucks parents. She further argues that spouses and partners should be considered as well.

“Me, having unpaid leave, put a lot of stress on my family and significant other,” she said. “He had to support all of us for the first few months. The baby had to be in a stressful household. I was stressed, and wasn’t working and couldn’t help support us. My partner was very stressed and couldn’t pay bills and take care of us.”

“I think it’s important for babies to be with their mom and dad during the first couple months when they are getting used to the world, when they are learning and growing and it’s important that it is not a stressful time,” Piccolo said. “All parents deserve equal leave, at least to enjoy that time with their baby.”

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