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Starbucks CEO to Shareholder: 'You Can Sell Your Shares' if You Don't Like Company's Support for Marriage Equality

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shot down a shareholder who grilled him about the company's support for marriage equality at the annual shareholders meeting in Seattle yesterday, KPLU reports:

SchultzAt the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, shareholder Tom Strobhar suggested that the boycott had indeed bled the company of value.

“In the first fill quarter after this boycott was announced, our sales and our earrings — shall we say politely — were a bit disappointing,” he said.

CEO Howard Schultz shot back that the decision to back gay marriage was not about the bottom line, but about respecting diversity. He said the company had delivered a healthy return last year, boycott or no.

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38 percent you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much,” he said, to loud applause from the audience.

Business Journal adds:

Schultz summed up the company’s position by saying, “Not every decision is an economic decision.”

“The lens we use to make decisions is the lens of our people. We want to embrace diversity,” said Schultz to a loud swell of applause from shareholders and Starbucks staffers attending the annual meeting.

Listen to audio of the exchange here.

Last year, Schultz fielded a question from a representative of the National Organization for Marriage, Jonathan Baker, before shooting him down, saying support for marriage equality was "not a difficult decision for us."

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  1. Yes...and gays caused Rome to fall, Tom.

    These jerks, who freely equate anything bad with anything they don't like, are a real drain on society. Maybe he was hoping to get a $25K NOM bonus for that little blurb.

    Posted by: kpo5 | Mar 21, 2013 12:12:57 PM

  2. WOW

    Posted by: SPOT | Mar 21, 2013 12:14:14 PM

  3. Well then, I guess I need to up my grande to a venti starting today. Grande's not enough for me anyway. And with the up size, quad shots please!

    I love Starbucks.

    Posted by: JD | Mar 21, 2013 12:15:07 PM


    Posted by: kpo5 | Mar 21, 2013 12:15:09 PM

  5. If not every decision is an economic decision then perhaps Starbucks will start offering better benefits to its employees - like permanent contracts, healthcare benefits, pension contributions?

    Of course they won't though.

    Starbucks treat their staff like crap and their support for marriage equality is a PR move to make it look hip.

    When I hear of big corporations claiming to support equality I always google their employment practices.

    If the company treats its staff like crap then it means the company is no friend of the LGBT community, as those staff are treated like crap as well.

    Posted by: MaryM | Mar 21, 2013 12:17:21 PM

  6. Mary M - how do you know this?

    Posted by: Jack M | Mar 21, 2013 12:19:08 PM

  7. Thanks for reminding me that I need to go get a latte from Starbucks right now!

    Posted by: kit | Mar 21, 2013 12:20:15 PM

  8. a 38% return, and the shareholder is COMPLAINING?

    Perhaps he could invest iut in a nice bank. chase is paying .1% (POINT 1 PER CENT) on savings accounts now.

    Posted by: Ben in Oakland | Mar 21, 2013 12:30:30 PM

  9. MaryM: I'm curious about your assertions. When I worked at Starbucks corporate, the benefits (including Bean Stock) were amazing. I know they couldn't continue their extreme generosity forever but I wouldn't think they'd regress so much.

    Did you come to these conclusions via experience or by letting your fingers do the Googling?

    Posted by: Rey | Mar 21, 2013 12:39:11 PM

  10. @MaryM. Do you know what you are talking about? I went to the Starbucks website, and they do indeed offer the benefits that you complain about.

    For a part time job, Starbucks offers an amazing range of benefits including health insurance (plus vision and dental), bonuses, 401(k), etc.

    Posted by: Howard | Mar 21, 2013 12:43:31 PM

  11. Mary's being a kneejerk twit. Sbux is well know for treating their ground level employees generously. Even PT folks can qualify for health insurance.

    Could we be doing even better? Sure. But compared to their competitors, sbux is very generous to their employees.

    Posted by: Dan | Mar 21, 2013 12:50:21 PM

  12. Well said.

    Posted by: Matt26 | Mar 21, 2013 1:04:16 PM

  13. SNAP!

    Posted by: Right On! | Mar 21, 2013 1:08:08 PM

  14. Thanks for that link kpo5.

    This "random stockholder," Tom Strobhar, is a professional stockholder "protester" associated with NOM. He's pulled the same thing at stockholder's meetings for Target and Bank of America.

    It would be interesting to know exactly how much stock in these companies he actually has and how those purchases came about.

    Posted by: Caliban | Mar 21, 2013 1:09:00 PM

  15. Clearly the CEO knows who his customers are.

    It's hard to imagine that Starbucks was ever the destination of choice for the evangelical set anyway. Isn't Starbucks sort of synonymous with metrosexuals and yuppie nonconformistconformists?

    Posted by: David Hearne | Mar 21, 2013 1:24:58 PM

  16. He may not always bat a thousand percent,however in this case he's perfect! It took "Moxie" on his part to put ethics before profits. Not too many CEO's would do that. The World is changing every moment and at the moment "we" have the momentum in our favor. Thanks to Mr Schultz and the many non-gays who have befriended us at this important time in our movement.

    Posted by: Jerry Pritikin the bleacher Preacher | Mar 21, 2013 1:38:08 PM

  17. Starbucks policy is to keep as many of its employees as possible, on part time contracts to avoid paying for benefits for them.

    It's a corporation.

    Do you really believe it cares about anything other than its own pocket?

    Posted by: MaryM | Mar 21, 2013 1:41:08 PM

  18. And Starbucks has deliberately driven as many independent coffeeshops as possible out of business.

    It's just McDonalds with better PR

    Posted by: MaryM | Mar 21, 2013 1:43:09 PM

  19. Mary,
    RE: deliberately driven as many independent coffeeshops as possible out of business"

    They certainly don't undercut on price (like Walmart, for ex.), so I'm not sure how an entirely discretionary item like coffee sells so well for so long based on anything other than delighting its customers.

    I alternate between buying my bulk coffee from Starbucks and an independent roaster--I happen to like both--but I don't an evil plot here. They run a good business, provide benefits to part-timers (show me another large corp that does that), sell a (to me) good product, and support diversity.

    Posted by: JC | Mar 21, 2013 2:08:20 PM

  20. MaryM seems a little constipated.

    Posted by: Jerry | Mar 21, 2013 3:06:51 PM

  21. I'd like echo another sentiment though, because 38% is a remarkable gain and anyone who thinks otherwise is truly trapped in the corporate greed mentality.

    Posted by: Jerry | Mar 21, 2013 3:08:35 PM

    All NEED to treat Gays equally because they need their Gay employees, and their younger, equality minded customers.
    It is an open secret that Gay men, in particular, often work "beneath themselves" in retail jobs, where they feel safer than in other fields that may pay more.

    Posted by: Bob | Mar 21, 2013 3:54:11 PM

  23. Aversion to gay sex is always about the "bottom line" Starbucks is a racket that turned coffee into something that takes time off your life while you wait for it to be prepared.. Maybe it's time again for Mrs. Folgers "mountain grown" coffee, and pass on the snob drinks.

    Posted by: Garth | Mar 21, 2013 4:43:35 PM

  24. Don't despair Mary. The bitches come out of the woodwork if your words don't fit their agenda. Someone is championing gay rights here. If other similar news is any indication, they are suddenly golden.

    Posted by: Garth | Mar 21, 2013 4:49:20 PM

  25. Don't despair Mary. The bitches come out of the woodwork if your words don't fit their agenda. Someone is championing gay rights here. If other similar news is any indication, they are suddenly golden.

    Posted by: Garth | Mar 21, 2013 4:49:21 PM

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