Starbucks is on pace to pay all of its workers at least $15 an hour within two to three years, making it the largest chain in the U.S. to do so and a move that could likely push other restaurant companies in the same direction.
Kevin Johnson, the company’s CEO, said in an open letter to Congressional leaders on Wednesday that 30% of its retail workers—which it calls “partners”—make $15 an hour already. Many of these workers reached that level after the company raised its wages by at least 10%.
“With these investments, more than 30% of our U.S. retail partners are currently at or above $15/hour and we continue on our path to ensure all U.S. partners will be making at or above $15/hour within the coming two to three years,” Johnson wrote.
A $15-per-hour minimum wage appears inevitable, certainly in some markets. Florida voters, for instance, approved an amendment to its constitution in November calling for a $15 minimum wage. President-Elect Joe Biden wants to see a $15-per-hour minimum wage at the federal level.
Some restaurants and retail companies are not waiting for that to happen. The big-box retailer Target started paying workers $15 an hour earlier this year, for instance. The fast-casual pizza chain &pizza has also said it would pay all of its workers $15 an hour by 2022.
But Starbucks, which operates 8,800 U.S. locations and licenses more than 6,000 other locations, would be the biggest restaurant company to take this step. Its move comes as restaurants continue to struggle finding workers during the pandemic, leading more of them to increase wages and take other steps to improve recruitment and retention.
Johnson’s letter was addressed to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, the Democrat and the Senate minority leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The letter urges them to approve new COVID relief measures as the virus surges and states close dining rooms. “Starbucks urges Congress to take immediate bipartisan action to pass new COVID relief legislation to address the urgent needs in our communities, especially for the millions of Americans out of work, small businesses facing economic uncertainty and the public health needs of state and local government on the front lines of the pandemic,” Johnson wrote.
He echoed those concerns in a presentation to investors on Wednesday. “Many people are hurting right now,” Johnson said. “There’s many people around the world who are unemployed. There’s many small businesses that are hurting. And this is where in the United States, we need Congress to take action,” Johnson said.
“We’ve been very clear and supportive of a relief bill that helps all small businesses, including independent coffee shops.”