Published on: June 13, 2022
The New York Times has snippets from an interview it conducted with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at its DealBook policy forum in Washington, DC.
• On unionization: "Starbucks unfortunately happens to be the proxy of what is happening. We’re right in the middle of it. If a company as progressive as Starbucks, that has done so much and is at the 100th percentile in our entire industry for benefits for our people, can be threatened by a third party that means that any company in America can.
"Now, I’ve said publicly I’m not anti-union, but the history of unions is based on the fact that companies in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s abused their people. We’re not in a coal mining business; we’re not abusing our people.
"But the sweeping issue in the country is that businesses are not doing enough, and the business is the enemy.
"We don’t believe that a third party should lead our people. And so we are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our people."
• On getting workers back to the office: "I have been unsuccessful, despite everything I’ve tried to do, to get our people back to work. I’ve pleaded with them. I said I’ll get on my knees. I’ll do push-ups. Whatever you want. Come back. No, they are not coming back at the level I want them to. And, you know, we’re a very collaborative, creative group. I realize I’m an old-school person and this is a different generation. I’m in the office at 7 a.m. and I leave at 7 at night. I’m trying to make an example. I think people will come back two to three days a week and that’s the way — that’s the way it is. But the thing that I am evaluating is, what’s the level of productivity? And you know, it appears that people are working at home."
• On why he returned: "I came back to reinvent the role and responsibility of a public company at a time where there is a cultural and political change with regard to the crisis of capitalism — the needs, requirements of the employee in a company today.
"I don’t want to be critical but I have to be honest that the government in many ways have left people behind. If you call thousands of people who are working for a paycheck today and you asked them about economic mobility and specifically about the promise of country, for the most part they are going to say it’s not available to me. And if you ask people, unfortunately, who are Black or brown, they are going to say without question it’s not available to me for the most part.
"If we think about the past, Starbucks created comprehensive health insurance for our people 25 years before the Affordable Care Act. Equity in the form of stock options for everyone, including part-time workers. Free college tuition. We can go on and on, but the truth is those benefits, as good as they are and were, are not good enough for the employee of today, primarily because Gen Z has a different view of the world. And also because the government has not provided them with a pathway that they believe they deserve."