Starbucks Baristas Question Reopening: 'It Felt Like an Ultimatum'

As Starbucks locations across the country begin to reopen their doors, coffee lovers everywhere smile at the thought of a bit of normalcy returning to their lives. Some baristas, however, may not be smiling so much.

Some Starbucks employees are wondering if the reopening measures put into place at certain locations were premature, hoping they're not risking their lives by serving up customers' orders.

Starbucks began reopening on May 4 and has vowed that at least 90% of their locations would reopen by June 1.

One barista in Chicago told NBC News, "It seems to be bad to reopen when you have an ongoing worsening pandemic."

The reopenings include safety protocols, including worker temperature checks, required masks, closed seating areas, and only drive-thru or mobile orders.

Still, some baristas are finding it hard to return to work.

One manager in southeastern Massachusetts said, "I don't think any store should have been open until we had a better handle as a nation on this outbreak. I think opening right now is a risk to employees and the public."

Another employee in Chicago said, "Why are we putting out all the people at Starbucks, many of whom are parents and care workers, making them decide to risk their own life to serve someone who thinks they’re helping the economy by ordering a frappuccino?"

Meanwhile, CEO Kevin Johnson wrote in a blog post on Thursday, "We are borrowing strongly from our lessons navigating this in China. We have stood strong, together — ALL of us — and made a commitment to do our part to keep partners’ care front and center as we weather the storm."

Should Starbucks employees choose they don't feel comfortable returning to work, they have the option of using accrued sick time or taking unpaid leave through September. However, using this time may mean employees are not qualified for unemployment benefits.

"It felt like an ultimatum to me," one Phoenix barista said. "It felt like any way I go, I am screwed."

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