Several Starbucks locations in the Seattle area will be installing safe needle deposit boxes in store bathrooms after thousands of workers signed a petition calling on the coffee megachain to “protect employees.”
Workers took to Coworker.org to pen the petition, which 3,700 employees had signed by Wednesday evening, 300 shy of its 4,000 person goal.
In the petition, workers urged corporate to place needle deposit boxes in Starbucks bathrooms, citing the “heroin” and hepatitis C “crisis” as well as the risks involved with unsafely discarded hypodermic needles.
“Exposure to HIV/AIDS, Hep C, Hep B, etc. is a risk in Seattle where there is a heroin/hep c crisis,” the petition claimed. “Employees risk getting poked, and DO get poked, even when following ‘protocol’ of using gloves and tongs to dispose of used needles left in bathrooms, tampon disposal boxes, and diaper changing stations.”
The petition went on to report that along with the risk of being poked with needles, “Employees have to pay out-of-pocket for [treatment if poked] before being reimbursed until Starbucks's company insurance kicks in.”
Baristas at Starbucks stores in Seattle, the coffee chain’s hometown, have reported they have to dispose of hypodermic needles left behind by drug users every day.
“[Needle users] put them in the tampon disposal boxes in the bathrooms and we have to dig them out,” one barista claimed.
In a statement to Fox News, a spokesperson for Starbucks said there are protocols in place to protect employees from “scary situations.”
“I can’t emphasize enough that if our partners are ever in a position where they don’t feel comfortable completing a task, they are empowered to remove themselves from the situation and alert their manager. As we always do, we are constantly evaluating our processes and listening to partner feedback of ways we can be better,” the statement read.
Since the petition was authored, Starbucks has been looking into the matter and are actively looking into solutions such as installing sharp boxes and testing heavier duty garbage bags to prevent needles from poking through.
The Seattle region had the third-highest number of homeless people in the U.S. in 2017, despite the city spending $68 million on combating homelessness.
In September last year, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said her proposed budget for the city would set aside $1.3 million for a pilot program that would create an injection site for drug users.
Fox News’ Chris Irvine contributed to this report.