Starbucks' Military Employees Get Special Blend of Support

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2006 - Starbucks didn't just wish then-Army Capt. Matt Parkinson well when he was activated to serve in Iraq as part of the Washington National Guard.

Instead, the company went above and beyond what the federal law requires employers do for activated reserve-component personnel, Parkinson said. The company made up the difference between his civilian and military pay and maintained his benefits while he was activated, between November 2003 and February 2005.

He said his supervisors and friends within the company offered him any support he needed, whether it was personal or job related.

"It's not just me," Parkinson, who's now a major in the Army Reserve, said. "That's how they treat any other partner. It's an amazing place.

"Starbucks is a company with soul," he added.

More than 200 of Starbucks' military partners, as employees are called, have been the beneficiaries of that soul since the beginning of the global war on terrorism, Dave Pace, executive vice president of partner resources, said.

That soul, along with morale-boosting shipments of coffee and mugs to his unit in Iraq, also prompted Parkinson to nominate Starbucks for a Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The company is one of 15 employers to receive the award, given by the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency.

Pace said the company is thrilled with the award and appreciates the recognition, but doesn't help its military employees for the recognition.

"We do this with our military partners, but it really goes to who we are as a company," he said. "Our whole philosophy is, 'How do we take care of our people?' Because we're confident that if we do the right thing for our people that it'll build loyalty and it'll build commitment."

Parkinson said he's come to know during his seven-year tenure with the company that it does the right thing just because it's the right thing. "For example, (Starbucks) provides health care benefits to part-time workers," he noted. "That's something that in no way benefits me directly. However, it definitely is something that gives me tremendous loyalty to this company.

"It's very soothing to your conscience, going to work every day knowing that you're part of a truly great organization," he said.

For Pace, whose brother is a Marine Corps major and served in Iraq, the award has special, personal meaning, he said. "It was important for me to (support) our guys here," he said. "It was a way for me to indirectly support my brother and his colleagues."

Starbucks will receive its award during a ceremony in Washington on Sept. 21.

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