Friday, March 28, 2008

Boycott Starbucks

Yeah, right, like we can boycott Starbucks, the largest independent coffee importer and chain coffee cafe. They're everywhere in the U.S., both independent and in-store cafes. I go to one at least once a week because they're open early Sunday mornings for newspapers and coffee. And often several times during the week, but only when I can't find another cafe, preferably small independent or chain cafe, such as SBC or Tullys.

Starbucks is noted for the good employee benefits and policies, another reason to support them. You're supporting people who enjoy their job and work hard. They deserve the tips you give them. And that's where I'm thinking of boycotting Starbucks. Not for their products or service, and especially not the employees, but the arogrance of their CEO Howard Schulz.

A class action suit filed in California was decided in favor of the plaintiff, the employees, who sued that tips belong to employees and can't be shared by managers. The court agreed that tips weren't for members of management, because they're not the classification of employees eligible for tips. It would have been a good jesture by the CEO to agree, and then change the corporation's policy and reimburse the employees the court mandated.

Or so, you would think it would be a good jesture for a good CEO. But Mr. Schulz has decided to appeal the decision. And his communications to the employees really doesn't explain it. He tries to treat managers, which sometimes may work as baristas from time to time since most start as baristas, as the same as fulltime baristas. What doesn't he understand about California law that says anyone who supervises is management?

Starbucks has other policies I'm not happy with. You can't tip baristas in Starbucks cafe in Safeway stores because they're not Starbucks employees. They're Safeway employees. And the same for anywhere else Starbucks is in stores. That's unfair to the baristas. What's good about doing your best if the customer can't thank you with a tip?

And Howard Schulz himself isn't loved by many here. He tried to bully the local government when he not only blocked off a public access to the public beach in front of his lake front home, he built into to like it was his property. The local government had to go to court to force him to pay for the work to remove his work and build the public access. He tried to make it a public relations issue of the government bullying him, which didn't last when the facts became public.

Anyway, my point? Well, obviously it's too hard to boycott Starbucks, for me at least since a few know me as a routine customer. And it wouldn't be fair to the employees to boycott them for the actions of the CEO. So, I don't have an answer but somehow we need to send a message to Howard Schulz, like we can, and if we could, would he listen? I doubt it.

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