Unlike Brad Plumer, I'm going to evince no shame in declaring myself objectively pro-Starbucks -- I love the place. And you know what? I don't even drink coffee. Yep -- shout it from the mountain, this decaffeinated blogger thinks independents are overrated and everyone should enjoy a local emanation of the Seattle-based giant. Starbucks offers all workers, whether full or part-time, paid vacation and sick leave, stock options, a 401(k) plan, and health benefits. The health plan is available with a mere 20-hours a week -- most places demand 40 -- and the company pays 75% of the costs, more than the federal government pays in its plans. Domestic partners are included in the coverage, and in fact were allowed in a year before unmarried heterosexual partners were brought into the fold. The plan also includes dental, vision, and mental care. My friends who work there love the job and consider themselves overpaid. My friends who work at independent shops generally dislike their work and find their compensation paltry. There's no doubt about who gets the better deal.
Moreover, drive through LA some time, particularly the less desirable neighborhoods. Check out the dilapidated street signs, the dirty looking strip malls and restaurants, and the general unpleasantness of the urban architecture, both indoors and out. Then step into the Starbucks there. Burgundy walls, paintings, Ray Charles on the speakers, everything's clean...it's like entering a sanctuary. Any company able to offer haven to groups generally left out of architectural affluence, by which I mean sequestered in unpleasant areas and forced to patronize unlikable stores, should be embraced by liberals. Any company willing to do it while treating their workers in a truly admirable way, especially compared to most of the independents who comprise their ideologically favored competition, should be lauded. Not so much that you shouldn't choose Pete's over them at every opportunity, or support their worker's efforts at unionization, but lauded nonetheless.