Starbucks ranks high on Fortune’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’

Full-benefit plans for eligible, part-time employees helped boost the ranking.

by Brian Kushida

When nutrition dietetics senior Angela Ewer finishes her shift as a barista at Starbucks Coffee Company in Roseville, Minn., she knows she can leave with a few benefits. She can pick up her complimentary one-pound bag of coffee for the week, buy a travel mug at a discount or make herself the latte she’s entitled to each shift.

Or, if she really needed it, a comprehensive health care plan.

University students like Ewer are using the perks of Starbucks benefit plans as a means to assuage the costs of health care.

“It’s really nice to know that I won’t have to work more (if I get) sick,” said Ewer.

The January issue of Fortune magazine ranked Starbucks 16th in the top “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2007, outranking Yahoo! Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Minnesota’s own Mayo Clinic.

The rankings were based on answers to randomly distributed surveys, which more than 105,000 employees at more than 446 companies responded to. The Great Place To Work Institute Inc. created the surveys, according to Fortune.

Fortune cited the coffee company’s growing job opportunities and full-benefit plans for eligible, part-time employees as a basis for its ranking.

Qualified Starbucks employees who work a minimum of 20 hours per week receive a benefits package that includes comprehensive health care, dental and vision benefits and 401K with matching and stock option grants, according to Keith Stewart, regional marketing manager of Starbucks Corp.

The health care isn’t free of costs, but rather the company pays approximately 75 percent of it for those who receive the benefits, said Stewart.

Ewer said she works approximately 20 hours per week to maintain her eligibility for the benefits, which for her include dental care.

“It’s good to know that you’re covered if you get your tooth knocked out,” Ewer said.

However, not all Starbucks franchises follow the same benefit plan.

Since the Starbucks location in Coffman Union is operated by the University, those who work there are considered employees of the University – not of Starbucks.

Despite being operated by University Dining Services, the employees can receive University benefits if they work 30 hours a week.

University Dining Services director Larry Weger said the University still offers its own full-time benefits plan, which can include vacation time, retirement plans and dental care.

“University employees have extraordinary benefits,” Weger said.

Art history junior Laurel Nydam works for Starbucks at 25th and Riverside avenues and said the benefits she receives keep her working there.

“(Receiving the benefits) will make it harder for me to leave the company,” Nydam said.

Pat Weinberg, owner of the Purple Onion Café and Espresso Exposé, said that Starbucks’ benefit plans might not be as helpful as employees would think.

“(Starbucks employees) don’t realize they can get their own plan for a lot less expensive than what Starbucks offers them,” said Weinberg, adding that seeking higher

pay at a different job can allow for affordable health plans.