Business

Starbucks CEO Holds Frank Discussions About Race

Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, talks about Starbucks' Teavana tea products, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at the company's annual shareholders meeting in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Howard Schultz, chairman and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company, talks about Starbucks’ Teavana tea products, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, at the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

 

LOS ANGELES (USA Today) — Right from the start, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz acknowledged that he was wading into potentially dangerous territory by holding a series of forums for frank discussions with his employees about race.

For the latest, he came to the California African American Museum here, inviting hundreds of Starbucks baristas, managers and other workers to listen to each other’s stories Monday about how skin color and ethnicity have affected their lives, as well as how they treat customers.

The meeting showed how racial strife over the summer in Ferguson, Mo., after the police shooting of Michael Brown and subsequent protests in other cities involving minorities are playing out not only in government and society, but in Corporate America.

“Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have unconscious biases,” Schultz said.

He said he felt “very restless, very concerned” after Ferguson and the other events, including an officer-involved shooting near a Starbucks store in Milwaukee. About 40% of Starbucks’ 150,000 employees in the U.S. are minorities, Schultz said, and “we had to do something.” That there would be “no ignoring it or being a bystander.”

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