From the ISO’s kick-off forum “Why You Should Join the Socialists & Change the World”.
"Starbucks baristas make about $9/hr. If they make 3 drinks for $5 each, they pay for their hour of their labor & supplies. At 5 drinks they pay for themselves & a coworker. At 10 the whole store for an hour. At peak hours they make 2-300 drinks & see none of the profits. Every drink after 3 is theft."
Having been both a Barista and a Waitress, I’m not saying the Baristas don’t deserve to be paid more of the cut…
…but the profit margin here doesn’t account for the folks who are bigger losers in this scenario: do you know what it takes to harvest coffee?
- Coffee cherries ripen unevenly, so they are hand-picked by workers (often children) making poverty wages and working long days.
- The cherries are then depulped, fermented, sorted, hulled, dried and packaged: all labour-intensive processes that take a few days.
- Usually the green coffee is shipped from somewhere in the Global South.
- On arrival in the Country of consumption, the coffee is then graded, roasted, cupped, and re-packaged
- It is delivered to a Starbucks, where a minimum-wage worker presses a button that grinds it, and percolates a beverage from it.
The arduous process of making coffee, from tree to table.
Young Mexican girl picking coffee cherries.
Rwandan workers grading ‘beans.’
This is not to mention the people doing the logging, and pulp and paper processing to make disposable cups, the people working on dairy farms, for the milk and cream, or the people harvesting beets or other crops and processing sugar from them. These are the people whose labour creates the goods being consumed.
In light of all this, $5 is actually a perfectly reasonable price for coffee, and there is actually no reason in the modern world that the person working at Starbucks couldn’t have a machine doing their job, and doing it better. Baristas don’t really create anything of value.
Briggo Coffee Haus: it does everything a Barista can, except be told to smile.
We preserve these essentially redundant, poorly paid, and low-satisfaction jobs (and demand higher wages for them) in wealthier countries, all while the people doing extremely strenuous agricultural labour don’t see more than a few cents of that $5. Cut out the Barista entirely (it’s not like it’s a fulfilling occupation), and then apply these sort of profit margin analytics to workers in the Global South: then maybe we have a coherent worker’s rights politic.
#coffee #food politics