Once And Future Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Does Good Thing, Weird Thing, Dick Thing
Howard Schultz, who has become the CEO of Starbucks for a third time, almost got himself some good press at Yr Wonkette today, but then he had to go and be an absolute union-busting dick.
We started off doing a nice little story about Schultz's announcement Monday that the giant coffee company would stop doing stock buybacks and instead use the money to help out Starbucks workers and stores. That's pretty good, since the only thing stock buybacks do is increase the value of stock and the dividends to shareholders, without doing much of anything for workers.
As KTLA's consumer reporter David Lazarus notes, Starbucks had announced in October that it would spend $20 billion on stock buybacks, a policy reversed by Schultz's announcement yesterday in a letter to all employees. He said nice things about how the move would "invest more profit into our people and our stores — the only way to create long-term value for all stakeholders."
Then I had to go and mention to Kid Zoom that I was writing a nice short piece about Starbucks. Kid replied, "Oh, you mean the union busting and the NFTs?" One of these days I'm gonna have to ask Kid how to add hyperlinks to the things I say. It's pretty impressive.
Also, fuck you Howard Schultz.
As Vice News's Motherboard reports, Schultz said during a "town hall" videoconference for Starbucks employees that he wasn't at all happy about the fact that some Starbucks stores have held union votes. But he tried — ineffectively, it seems — to excite the young hip folks who work for the soul-crushing coffee behemoth by promising that Starbucks would soon get into the NFT business too, so that instead of people giving Starbucks too much money for burnt coffee, they could also start giving Starbucks coffee for nothing, which is the entire NFT business model.
[During the video "forum," Schultz] awkwardly asked multiple times if anyone in the audience was a "digital native," and then went back on script and asked if anyone had “followed what has been happening with NFTs" or “participated in investing in NFTs.” The audience laughed and only one brave soul chimed in to say they had invested, but still Schultz was undeterred.
"If you look at the companies, the brands, the celebrities, the influencers, that are trying to create a digital NFT platform and business, I can't find one of them that has the treasure trove of assets that Starbucks has from collectibles to the entire heritage of the company,” Schultz told the room. "So, here's the secret: sometime before the end of this calendar year, we are going to be in the NFT business."
And sure, NFTs are stupid and, like cryptocurrency, probably a scam or, at the very least, entirely too attractive to horrible people who will bore you to death talking about them. But the speech got even uglier as Schultz went on about the "assault" of unions on innocent corporate entities.
BREAKING: In a town hall meeting, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz just told workers that Starbucks is \u201cbeing assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.\u201d\n\nSchultz also referred to @SBWorkersUnited as an \u201coutside organization trying to take our people.\u201dpic.twitter.com/oYMP01gKP2— More Perfect Union (@More Perfect Union) 1649101869
Now, here's where it gets a little sensitive because I've been coached a little bit. But I do want to talk about something pretty serious. We can't ignore what is happening in the country as it relates to companies throughout the country being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.
It's quite the "assault" on the poor beleaguered coffee concern, what with more than 100 union organizing drives at Starbucks stores in 27 states. Motherboard notes that even before he took over as CEO, Schultz had been helping out in his own special way:
in November, Schultz flew out to Buffalo, NY before the first union election to draw parallels between working at Starbucks and Jews trapped in railcars headed for Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust.
Well that's certainly rude. Despite Schultz's efforts, the shop in Buffalo voted to unionize, and as of yet, no one has been genocided.
Motherboard also reports that on Monday, Starbucks shitcanned Laura Dalton, a 19-year-old barista who has been working to organize workers in Scottsdale, Arizona, stores. The company said Dalton had been fired for recording conversations on her phone without consent. Dalton told progressive news outlet More Perfect Union that she was so frequently harassed by managers about her participation in the union drive that she had taken to keeping her phone recording while at work. More Perfect Union points out that Arizona is a "one-party consent state, meaning that permission is not required to record conversations where the person recording is present."
What's more, the site notes that just last month, the National Labor Relations Board "issued a formal complaint against Starbucks for subjecting Dalton to a series of abuses meant to disrupt the union campaign and force her to quit." The linked New York Times story there says the complaint stated that Dalton
was suspended and disciplined for raising concerns about wages, hours and insufficient staffing on behalf of co-workers, and that the retaliation was intended to discourage other employees from raising similar concerns, even though it is their legal right to do so.
New York Times labor reporter Noam Schreiber tweeted yesterday that he didn't think he'd ever seen a worker fired after "the NLRB issued a complaint against the company for retaliating against her for union activity by suspending and disciplining her." He added in another tweet that "I'm sure this has happened before, but you almost never see it in a high profile case where the media and other outsiders are paying attention."
Seems Starbucks just doesn't mind letting it be known that it's willing to retaliate against people who want to unionize, not even if the NLRB has already warned that union organizing is legally protected.
Now, just because Dalton's recordings of her supervisors were legal in Arizona didn't mean she had lived up to Starbucks's own high ethical standards, a company spox explained to Motherboard:
“A partner’s interest in a union does not exempt them from the standards we have always held. [...] We will continue enforcing our policies consistently for all partners.”
Message heard loud and clear: all employees who step out of line will get some super-consistent enforcement.
In conclusion, it's going to be really difficult for us to boycott Starbucks because we never go there anyway, but with so many other better places to get coffee, we'll make sure the filthy greedheads never get a penny from us. Dang, guess that means we'll be taking a pass on those sweet NFTs, too.
Needless to say, we'll make an exception for any Starbucks locations where there's a union drive.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.