Starbucks pays Black workers less than white counterparts, study shows

Labor research group, Unite Here, says data shows almost a $3 wage disparity between Black and white baristas working in some locations of the popular coffee franchise

Black baristas at some of Starbucks airport locations say they are paid less than white baristas and are subjected to other types of discrimination.

Black baristas at some of Starbucks airport locations say they are paid less than white baristas and are subjected to other types of discrimination.

The median income for Black baristas at airport Starbucks in the United States is $1.85 less than for white baristas, according to findings by Unite Here, a labor group that reviewed wage data of more than 2,000 Starbucks airport employees from February to October 2019. The group is attempting to organize Starbucks’ airport locations, reported CBS News.

READ MORE: Starbucks regional manager files lawsuit claiming racial discrimination

At some airport stores —like Starbucks inside of George Bush Intercontinental Airport— the wage disparity for Black workers is even greater. Unite Here found that Black baristas here bring in $2.84 less than white baristas.

Further, some Starbucks employees say they are discriminated against because of sexual orientation. A separate study found that many Starbucks workers are impoverished and struggling to survive.

Jay Kelly, a transgender barista who works at Orlando International Airport, told CBS that his boss mocked him in front of customers by referring to him as a “she” instead of as a “he.” Kelly told CBS that after the incident, “I went to the bathroom and cried my eyes out.”

Kelly, 25, said he has worked at Starbucks for three years and makes $11.85 an hour.

“I can’t afford to buy myself any food or bathing or hygiene products. It all goes toward bills and to help my mom out,” he said, adding that he has had to occasionally sleep at the airport because he couldn’t afford the rate of taking a car service home after a late-night shift. Kelly says his shift ends sometimes after the bus he normally hops on stops running for the day.

Starbucks is not buying Unite Here’s claims.

“We do not discriminate against any associate based on race, ethnicity, national origin, LGBTQ status or any other reason,” HMSHost, a food service company that operates Starbucks stores at 27 U.S. airports, said to CBS News. “Our fair treatment policy ensures an open and inclusive environment.”

A spokesperson for Starbucks referred questions to HMSHost, which employs 23,000 workers at airport Starbucks locations across the U.S. and Canada.

HMSHost says the union’s report is misleading.

“Pay rates are not in any way determined by race and ethnicity,” HMSHost said, adding that rates are calculated on an employee’s experience and time with working at Starbucks. Pay rates for union workers are negotiated during the collective bargaining process, HMSHost said.

READ MORE: Black man says he was kicked out of Starbucks because of his race

Plus, the findings survey roughly 12% of HMSHost’s unionized workers and 6% of its total workforce, HMSHost said.

“We are concerned about the well-being of our associates, and we will respond and try and resolve any issues when it is brought to our attention. HMSHost offers good, entry-level jobs that provide a pathway to the workforce for thousands of our associates,” an HMSHost spokesperson sent in an email to CBS News. “Unlike some entry-level jobs, we offer a comprehensive package of benefits, including health insurance, meals while working, paid time off, educational support, training, and professional development opportunities.”