Starbucks supervisors want raise after court decision stops them from sharing in tips

Shift supervisors at local Starbucks cafes plan to deliver a petition to the coffee chain’s local headquarters demanding a pay raise following a recent court decision barring supervisors in Massachusetts from sharing in baristas’ tips, said a group that says it represents many of the supervisors.

In November, a US Court of Appeals panel in Boston upheld a lower court ruling that found Starbucks Corp. owes Massachusetts baristas more than $14 million for violating state laws preventing supervisors from sharing in tips pools.

AP File Photo/Starbucks Corp.

While strongly disagreeing with that decision, Starbucks said it agreed to abide by it.

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One potential result is that supervisors could make less money. Starbucks said it is taking steps to ensure that supervisors will continue to be “fairly rewarded for their work.”

According to a press release issued by the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, more than 300 local Starbucks employees and supporters have signed a letter asking Starbucks to compensate the 400 Massachusetts supervisors for a “de facto pay cut” that could shrink their income by 10 to 20 percent. The cut, the union says, will push supervisors’ pay “below the Boston living wage.”

The union said that Starbucks informed local supervisors last month that they would no longer be allowed to share in tips, starting Jan. 7.

A spokeswoman for Starbucks Corp. said that the company is devising a new operations structure for company-owned Massachusetts cafes that will seek to address the issues of supervisors, or “partners,” as Starbucks calls them.

“The new store structure will ensure that our hard-working partners will continue to be fairly rewarded for their work and that customers will continue to have a world class experience each time they visit one of our stores,” the spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail. “We will be sharing more details regarding the new store structure with partners in the days ahead. Until we talk to our partners, we are unable to share any details about the additional changes we will be making.”

The union claims that a supervisor’s job differs little from that of a barista. Both make drinks. One difference: Supervisors perform such tasks as counting cash and scheduling breaks.

With supervisors no longer allowed to share in tips, supervisors could potentially make less than some baristas with more than two years on the job, claims the union, which adds that the starting salary for supervisors is $11 per hour.