Starbucks CEO Has Harsh Words For Company's Baristas

Have you been paying attention to what's going on at Starbucks these days? In August 2021, stretched thin after months of pandemic-related closures and aberrations had left many of the coffee giant's employees complaining of long lines and long hours, three Starbucks stores in Buffalo, New York, announced that they were unionizing in order to seek more humane working conditions (via The New York Times). Over the following months, the movement to join Starbucks Workers United grew, spreading to more than 100 store locations in more than 19 states, according to Eater.

Those involved in the unionizing efforts say that the mega company with 32,600 global locations has not reacted kindly to employees' push for labor rights. According to Eater, Starbucks has practiced union-busting tactics including encouraging employees to vote against unionizing their stores, as well as outright firing workers involved in the movement. And amidst all this turmoil, Howard Shultz, who first joined Starbucks in 1982 and was a key figure in establishing the company, came back on board as interim CEO earlier this month, undoubtedly in an effort to help restore order. 

But Shultz, who has a long history of anti-union sentiment, according to Reuters, has already come into conflict with employees several times since his reinstatement. In fact, the latest incident was just lat Friday, when the CEO reportedly exchanged harsh words with a California barista.

Schultz allegedly told a barista to 'go somewhere else'

Starbucks interim CEO Howard Shultz, who was previously CEO from 1986 to 2000 and again from 2008 to 2017 (via Yahoo Finance), is very actively not supporting the company's growing unionization effort. Earlier this month, a video clip showed Schultz addressing a group of employees in a town hall-style meeting, saying that companies in the United States are "being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization," a statement that didn't go over very well with many baristas, according to Yahoo Finance.

Schultz is currently on a nationwide tour of Starbucks locations, whose aim is apparently to discourage workers from unionizing, according to the New York Post. And last week, at one of his stops in Long Beach, California, the historically anti-union Schultz allegedly asked a 25-year-old barista leading a unionization effort there, "If you hate Starbucks so much, why don't you go somewhere else?" Hall recounted to the pro-union news outlet More Perfect Union.

Hall told the outlet that the 68-year-old CEO went on several "rants" that ended in him lashing out at the young barista. Schultz hasn't been opaque about the reason for his return to Starbucks, telling the New York Post in a statement, "With significant pressures leading to the fracturing of our partner and customer experiences, I've been transparent about our missteps and the reason for my return — to reimagine Starbucks — built on our core values and guiding principles."