A new survey says almost half of Starbucks workers get their schedules one week or less in advance.
A new survey says almost half of Starbucks workers get their schedules one week or less in advance. Sorbis/Shutterstock

Last year, the New York Times wrote about how low-wage workers live at the mercy of scheduling software that gives them only a few days' notice of when they have to work. Advances in technology were making it easier for companies like Starbucks to predict exactly how many workers they'd need in any given shift. But they were also making life harder for workers.

"Flexibility—an alluring word for white-collar workers, who may desire, say, working from home one day a week—can have a darker meaning for many low-income workers as a euphemism for unstable hours or paychecks," wrote Jodi Kantor in the Times.

The day after that story came out, the Seattle-based coffee giant promised to improve the way it scheduled shifts for its 130,000 baristas and to end the practice of "clopening." That's when workers close a Starbucks store at night and are scheduled to open it the next morning.

But a new report out today shows the company may not be keeping its promise.

The report, released by the advocacy group the Center for Popular Democracy, used online surveys of about 200 Starbucks workers, who say they are still getting their schedules with little advance notice and are still being asked to work "clopening" shifts.

From the report:

Though Starbucks has consistent business and can predict its staffing needs well in advance, employees report work schedules that change week to week. Fluctuating weekly hours make it difficult for employees earning low wages to budget for basic expenses. And, work schedules that vary in timing make it challenging for employees to meet family responsibilities or make other commitments such as maintaining a second job or attending school.

The New York Times wrote about the report today. Here's what Starbucks told them:

“We’re the first to admit we have work to do,” said Jaime Riley, a company spokeswoman. “But we feel like we’ve made good progress, and that doesn’t align with what we’re seeing.” Ms. Riley maintained that all baristas now receive their schedules at least 10 days in advance.

Sage Wilson, a spokesperson for Working Washington, the group that helped organize workers for the $15 minimum wage and is currently working on the campaign to let Uber and Lyft drivers unionize, says concerns about scheduling are common among baristas and fast-food workers in Seattle. Working Washington doesn't hear as much about "clopenings," he says, but hears plenty from Starbucks baristas and other low-wage workers about the insecurity caused by unpredictable scheduling.

So, on the heels of the $15 minimum wage, could scheduling reform be the next workers' rights issue to heat up in Seattle? San Francisco has already passed a Retail Workers Bill of Rights, which, among other things, requires employers to give workers at least two weeks' notice of their schedule and one week's notice of schedule changes. It also requires employers to pay workers who are required to be on-call but don't actually get called in to work.

Wilson says Working Washington is in the early stages of creating a campaign calling for specific scheduling reforms in Seattle. At least two city council candidates—Michael Maddux and Rob Johnson, both running in northeast Seattle's District 4—have said they would support scheduling legislation. UPDATE: Kshama Sawant has also called for "fair scheduling legislation."

"It’s just crazy that people can be scheduled on effectively no notice, have schedules changed at whim, get sent home, etc.," Wilson wrote in an e-mail. "Just like on wages, corporations should improve their policies but government may very well have to step in."