In December 2023, The Hoot spoke with an anonymous worker at the Starbucks in Farber Library, who spoke on the difficulties that workers there have been experiencing. This worker spoke on the difficulties that workers there have been experiencing including an inability to get breaks at work.
The worker had experience working at a Starbucks previously, having taken this job on campus in order to, “make more money because the pay is better in Massachusetts than where [they are] from.”
However, the source noted that dysfunction was present before they began working. According to the source, “it was very hard to even reach someone to get a job, even though they need[ed] help. I was going back and forth with a variety of people, who I don’t even think I’ve met in person.”
The source was hired in 2023, and noted that “when I first started it was a bit … hostile in the sense that it felt like some of the workers didn’t want me there. It felt as if I was like competition for [the other workers].”
They also spoke about the work environment there, adding that “when I first started it was a bit … hostile in the sense that it felt like some of the workers didn’t want me there. It felt as if I was like competition for them. I didn’t really like coming into work because they were like watching me, everything I did. … I kind of felt like they were on me, trying to see what I was doing at all times. Just trying to micromanage me. I eventually set boundaries with them, so I’m actually really good friends with them now because after talking to [a friend of mine], I realized the way they were acting was kind of telling of how management [has eyes] on them. They were managing me, they were watching me, and it kind of felt like this is not what you do with a coworker. … They were so implicit on [how] management says ‘this, this, this, this, this.’ Even though half of the time, some of the drinks weren’t made up to par because of that. But I just [found] my own way and we eventually came to [an] understanding.”
This source said that although their relationships with their coworkers improved over time, management issues did not.
The source added that they’ve personally “worked eight-hour shifts where I haven’t been able to take my break simply because we don’t have enough people. And that’s illegal. I texted Ashley [Weaver, Usdan’s Hospitality Director], the management, saying ‘I did not take my break. The girl I was working with didn’t take her break.’ She didn’t even acknowledge that we didn’t take our break. She just said, ‘someone’s coming at 6 [p.m.].’ I was scheduled from 10 [a.m.] to 6 [p.m.] so if someone’s coming at 6, it doesn’t really help me.” Text messages obtained by The Hoot support this claim.
However, this was not an isolated incident. This source claims to have had many similar shifts, including ones where they didn’t take any break, ones where they didn’t take a 10-minute break and others where they didn’t take a 30-minute break. They also said that Harvest Table “still takes away the 30 minutes of work from my paycheck. Whether or not I take my break or not, that money is still withdrawn.”
Not providing workers the means to take a 30-minute break during a six-hour or longer shift is a violation of Massachusetts state law, according to section 100 of chapter 149 of title XXI of Massachusetts State Law, which reads “No person shall be required to work for more than six hours during a calendar day without an interval of at least thirty minutes for a meal. Any employer, superintendent, overseer or agent who violates this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than three hundred nor more than six hundred dollars.”
This worker feels that part of the problem is that “no one wants to come to Starbucks specifically because of the meal exchange system. They know [that] Starbucks is incredibly busy because students can order literally whatever they want [on a meal exchange], which discourages people [from] volunteering to go.”
They went on, recalling that they once told one of their coworkers “you’re doing really good. You’re working really hard,” as a compliment. In response, their coworker was taken aback, and the source recalled this coworker saying that “‘a lot of [management] says we don’t work hard.’”
The source noted that according to [this coworker], “management doesn’t think they work hard. They kind of, I don’t wanna say belittle them because I don’t know what exactly is exchanged between management and them, but the way she was making it sound is [as though] they don’t value them as workers, much less [as] human beings.”
They continued, saying that “it felt kind of weird because I would’ve assumed a school that preaches all the things that Brandeis preaches would have some sort of care for their workers. But that’s just not the case because based on what she told me, it just seemed like a shock to her for someone to tell her that she’s doing a good job.”
The source also talked about a recent change in management, mentioning that Starbucks is now managed by Ashley Weaver, who the source characterized as “incredibly disorganized” and “rude” to their coworkers. They also recalled one specific incident where Weaver was asked by a worker to place an order for some items for the store before the Thanksgiving break, and Weaver “pushed it to the side” and “just did not buy it.”
The worker added that, at the time of the interview, “Starbucks is currently out of mocha, chai, matcha, vanilla syrup. It’s, like, half the menu. We don’t have whole milk. But [Weaver] refuses to close the store … [and] I’m not sure if this is pressure from Brandeis or maybe just her directly, but they are still insisting that we keep the store open when we are out of half our inventory.”
Because the store reminds open despite these stocking issues, and because item availability is not updated frequently on the GrubHub app, “orders will still be coming in as if we still have those things and people come in to order and then we have to either cancel their orders, [and this causes] students to get mad, or we have to explicitly tell them we don’t have that.” This worker feels that, if Harvest Table won’t close the store, they should “put [this unavailability] on GrubHub; they should have just done it in a way where people would know we don’t have it. We had to write a sign in front of the department saying that we don’t have it.”
The source doesn’t feel that the blame lies solely with Starbucks management, though. They feel that broader Harvest Table management is responsible too, mentioning that one coworker “often talks about how management [doesn’t] listen to them. They’re rude … they just don’t listen to us.” Speaking on the shipment of materials that was requested before Thanksgiving break, this worker added that if Harvest Table had “listened to [the workers] when they gave them the list, we would have all the things that are out of stock.”
“It’s so busy because of the meal exchange system,” they added, “You can order any single drink [on a meal exchange from Starbucks], as long as it’s small. And that sounds wonderful for students, but it’s terrible for the staff. It’s our job, I’m not trying to complain, but when you’re getting so many orders at once, it gets so overwhelming.”
The source noted that the workers have asked management to modify the system so that “you could only order maybe an iced coffee, iced latte, just select drinks with meal exchange, and the others you have to pay for with points or maybe your actual money.” They said that this change “could be fair on students, but [Weaver] has said, oh, that’s a marketing thing. It’s not really our thing … It’s overwhelming because one, [there’s] all these meal exchange eligible items to make, and two, a lot of the items that they’re promoting, we don’t even have.”
The Hoot reached out to Matt Carty, Harvest Table’s Guest Experience Manager, Kory Laznick, Harvest Table’s Resident District Manager, and Weaver for comment in early December. After declining an in-person interview surrounding the subject, Harvest Table was provided with written questions via email. After several follow-up emails and nearly two months later, they responded by saying “At this time, we will not comment on Starbucks.”