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Starbucks CEO wants fiscal responsibility?

August 17, 2011

On Monday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz send out a letter to “Concerned Americans” with the suggestion that people withhold all campaign contributions before the 2012 Presidential Elections until Washington can figure out “long term fiscal challenges for this country.”

The announcement by the Starbucks leader was met with some support even liberal advocacy groups like Democracy 21. According to the Center for Responsible Politics, Democracy 21 sent Schultz’s letter to other campaign finance reform groups and posted the Starbucks CEO’s statement on their website.

While one can recognize in principle that the idea of withholding campaign donations until the economy is fixed, the proposal from Schultz is flawed in two ways.

First, the coffee baron does not clarify what is meant by fiscal responsibility. Does he mean that we need to produce and consume more to get the US economy going or does he mean there needs to be less regulation of the private sector? Without any articulation of what he means by fixing the economy we shouldn’t trust the intent of someone who has made millions by exploiting workers and farmers.

This brings us to the second reason why we shouldn’t take Howard Schultz’s proposal to seriously. Starbucks buys its coffee from around the world and doesn’t pay the farmers a fair wage for the coffee they grow, an issue that is explored in the powerful documentary Black Gold.

In addition, Starbucks doesn’t practice fiscal responsibility when it comes to its own workers. The coffee giant makes it a practice to hire workers and rarely give them 40 hours a week, thus avoiding the responsibility of paying them benefits. More importantly, Starbucks has a long history of targeting workers who either join a union or try to organize their fellow workers.

Attacking union members has been going on for several years now, especially since the IWW started organizing at Starbucks around the world. The Grand Rapids branch of the IWW has been organizing at Starbucks and demonstrating at various Starbucks locations around the city after one worker was fired for attempting to organize his fellow baristas.

Last month an IWW member was fired from a Starbucks in New York for her involvement in the union and just days ago another IWW Starbucks worker was targeted in Nebraska. The Omaha branch of the IWW filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the company for this action.

So, when Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz makes a proposal for people to withhold campaign contribution until politicians can create fiscal responsibility for the US, the public should respond by telling Schultz he needs to practice some economic responsibility by paying coffee farmers a fair wage and allow Starbucks workers the right to organize in his chain of cafes.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2011 4:30 pm

    I think that Schultz means the same thing by “fiscal responsibility” that most capitalists believe:

    1. Workers assume their own responsibility for health care (aka healh savings accounts, which receive a small tax benefit in exchange for the employee paying most or all insurance costs).

    2. Part-time schedules for workers to avoid health coverage and other benefits, such as pensions, etc.

    3. Stagnation of wages to increase corporate profits.

    4. The obtaining of the cheapest possible raw materials to lower buying costs and also increase corporate profits–hence, no fair-trade products.

    5. Understaffing to cut employee costs further.

    6. Changes in legislation to eliminate health and safety regulations, so that inspections and repairs are minimized.

    7. And, of course, the eradication of unions which work to ensure fair wages and treatment of workers.

    You’ll find this plan outlined in Mackinac Center “research papers,” employed by both state and federal legislators, and supported by governors like Rick Snyder, who lives in the pocket of the Business Leaders of Michigan organization. And the usual suspects pop up everywhere, supporting these policies that impoverish the working class so that the rich can get richer.

  2. Y.B. Ordinary permalink
    August 17, 2011 5:24 pm

    I am suspicious of any corporatist who doesn’t want ordinary people to contribute to political campaigns, since I’m sure no corporation will be curtailing their own political giving.

  3. August 17, 2011 5:29 pm

    You make a good point Y.B., but just to be clear Howard Schultz and his wife have donated $183,650 to federal candidates and political committees since the 1994 election cycle when he made his first known donation. Of that sum, 95 percent has benefited Democrats, including $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee over the years. http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2011/08/boycotting-campaign-contributions.html

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