Starbucks apparently has two types of corporate citizenship — conscience and de-conscience.
The highly profitable purveyor of what some might call over-glorified and over-priced coffee on Sunday announced to the world they were going to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, provide health insurance to eligible workers if the Affordable Care Act is repealed and help support struggling coffee growers in Mexico.
What prompted this burst of corporate responsibility and putting citizenship above profit? President Trump. More precisely it was Trump’s executive order dealing with a moratorium of immigrants from seven specific nations from entering the United States.
Give the number of CEOs pocketing fat paychecks tripping over themselves to stand up for the little guy the election of President Trump seems to have spurred many to stop pontificating about being responsible employers and business partners to actually threaten to do so with a dash of indignation.
One doesn’t get to be the world’s most profitable coffee firm by not putting the squeeze on small suppliers and employees.
If Trump can issue temporary immigration orders and get firms like Starbucks to share more of the wealth they are earning on the back of coffee growers struggling in Mexico or step up to provide health insurance where they didn’t before then whatever madness is going on back in Washington, D.C., is a beautiful thing.
Of course that assumes if the ACA is repealed Starbucks will actually backfill the subsidy Uncle Sam now gives the employees that Starbucks doesn’t pay enough so they can secure decent health insurance and not at the same time cutback hours to make employees ineligible for company insurance.
Holier-than-thou, human rights supporting and highly profitable corporations never would put profit above people, right? That’s why all of their employees can work 40 hours if they want and are paid $15 per hour as the company’s minimum wage that everyone that is gnashing their teeth over the switch in White House occupants demand low-end workers be paid.
Why wasn’t Starbucks worried until after Jan. 20 of this year that even though they will charge $4.55 for a Grande latte year after year and eventually up the price that growers — and therefore workers — in poor countries are never assured of making the same money they did the previous year thanks to that evil thing call a free market economy?
Is it fair Starbucks gets 25 percent of all profits on a typical cup of coffee while growers get 10 percent? Where is the social justice in that?
At least Starbucks wasn’t as shrill as some tech companies that rely heavily on green card labor and more often than not pay those engineers less than they do engineers who are American citizens. A number of firms whined that the executive order “violated” their company policies and philosophy.
What’s so funny is that everyone is eating it up.
Remember the good old days when activists from a certain part of the political spectrum were furious because firms such as ITT and the CIA acted as if businesses were sovereign nations to justify the overthrow of Chile’s government in 1973?
It would be nice if businesses such as Starbucks did the right thing to begin with and didn’t wait until they could score points with a large segment of their customer base by manning the ramparts to make sounds that they are willing to reduce profits to be more responsible to employees and suppliers.
I remember my dad and mom one Sunday back in 1963 spending hours going over numbers involving the hardware store so they could find a way to do what was right.
Wyatt Hardware on Vernon Street in Roseville was having a tough time. PayLess Drug Stores had opened in nearby Citrus Heights and was undercutting our family store on the price of small appliances as well as washing machines, dryers, stoves, and refrigerators. Yet when something went wrong, PayLess would not work with the customer and instead would send them to stores like my dad’s that also handled warranty repairs.
In the middle of this an employee that had been with my dad since high school was diagnosed with cancer. He had a young wife and two young kids. They were trying to figure out if they could swing paying for his health insurance and that of his family when he could no longer work.
Finally they decided just to do it even though it would force them to cut back on some things. We weren’t exactly poor nor were we well off. We lived in a two bedroom, one bathroom home — my parents and their three young sons — at the time. It was 1963 and my mom drove a 1957 Chevy station wagon and my dad a 1950 Chevy truck.
They weren’t spurred into action over indignation and the possibility of scoring political points. Nor had they cornered a large chunk of the world’s retail fresh coffee sales market and were swimming in dough.
Instead they quietly did what was right even though it hurt financially. It is what countless small businesses, families and individuals do every day in this country.
They don’t tie it to political outrage. They don’t issue press releases aimed at scoring points. They do it because it is the right thing to do.
If we want to pontificate about American values let’s not act like a Starbucks executive making seven figures plus bonuses invented the concept.
That said, if it takes someone like President Trump to make Starbucks put down a large chunk of change and cut slightly into their profits to stop making money at the expensive of the little guy without sharing with them a reasonable share of that wealth so be it.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.