Starbucks Repetitive Motion Injury
July 19, 2013
What is a Repetitive Motion Injury?
Repetitive motion disorders, or injuries, are a large group of painful and restrictive muscle (and or tendon, nerve and ligament) conditions formed by repeating a particular task, or set of tasks, over and over during the normal workday.
These disorders or injuries, also known as RMDs, include:
- Bursitis, an inflammation of the fluid-filled sacs called bursa which cushion joints, tendons, muscles and bones
- Epicondylitis, an inflammation of the rounded joint that at the elbow (or knee) over which muscles run; an example is tennis elbow
- Ganglion cysts, which are fluid-filled swellings on the upper surface of joints and tendons in the wrists, hands and feet
- Tendonitis, tendinitis, or tenosynovitis, all describe inflammations of a tendon, which is a stringy, muscle-like connector between muscle and bone, or the fluid-filled sheath around tendons
- Trigger finger, usually presenting as “locking” rigidity of the trigger finger, resulting from a difference in size between the flexor tendon and the surrounding pulley system
The Starbucks Repetitive Motion Protest
In light of Starbucks working conditions, which Starbucks employees feel provoke repetitive motion injuries, as well as accidents and burns, said employees have formed a workers union. Their web page, put together by employees who want union representation to address their concerns, addresses five issues of paramount concern, ranging from a complete absence of full-time wages to repetitive injuries and other hazards presented by hot fluids.
The first complaint addresses wages that start at $7.75 per hour, or far below what a worker needs to live on, and only pennies more than McDonald’s cashiers make. In fact, given that McDonald’s has a tiered wage system – with new or lower-skills employees making less, while shift and swing managers make close to a living wage ($10 per hour) and up to $13 – it appears that employment at the worldwide burger shop affectionately known as “Mickey Dees” pays significantly better than Starbucks across the board, by wages that reflect various levels of seniority and skill.
Another problem is the fact that Starbucks only offers part-time positions – and those on an indeterminate schedule that makes it impossible for employees to anticipate their weekly earnings so that they can budget their money.
The Rest of the Equation; Wages As Opposed to Injuries
The singular difference, the web page notes, is that Starbuck’s employees genuinely like their jobs, which are as much artistry as sales and – thanks to the Starbuck’s brand, which offers in inestimable cachet value – offer the opportunity to indulge creativity. Even the title (“barista”, from the Italian, and “baristi” in the plural) is exotic, defining the roles of those individuals who have achieved some skill and renown mixing hot drinks like coffee and tea, for example.
The repetitive motion injuries that baristas incur are a result of a fast-paced environment in which they prepare, over and over again, a series of coffees and/or teas from the coffee shop’s menu which require significant manual dexterity to achieve the precise color, head of foam, and flavor a coffee-lover wants.
Because Starbucks management refuses to have enough baristas during the busiest times – namely early morning and noon – the dangerously accelerated pace required of those who are working creates ideal conditions not only for RMDs but for burns and scalds. These latter injuries are due not only to a hectic work pace but the fact that Starbuck’s coffee shops are not ergonomically sound; that is, designed to minimize the possibility of repetitive motion injury.
Is There a Future in Making Specialty Coffee Drinks?
Absolutely! The Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, anticipates the sector growing in tandem with the rise in population from 2008 to 2018.
For Starbucks – makers of fine specialty coffees across the nation – the BLS prediction is like money in the bank. Since its fourth quarter net revenues of $3.4 billion in 2012, which predict $13.6 billion a year going forward (short of an ever deepening recession), one would think they could afford to bump up wages and institute some needed changes in the physical environment.
After all, the company could not operate without employees, and most savvy corporate executives realize that hiring people and raising wages puts a recessionary “bandage” on the hemorrhage of trade deficits overseas and curtailed spending internally.
Andrew Miller is an experienced social media expert, author, and co-founder of the tech startup ScanandBan.com. He has worked in marketing for over a decade and finds his passion in bringing concepts to life. As a Socialpreneur, he is an agent for positive social change through both his writing and business endeavors.