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.

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

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."


  1. kpo5 says

    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.

  2. JD says

    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.

  3. MaryM says

    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.

  4. Ben in Oakland says

    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.

  5. Rey says

    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?

  6. Howard says

    @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.

  7. Dan says

    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.

  8. Caliban says

    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.

  9. David Hearne says

    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?

  10. says

    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.

  11. MaryM says

    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?

  12. JC says

    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.

  13. Jerry says

    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.

  14. Bob says

    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.

  15. Garth says

    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.

  16. Garth says

    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.

  17. Garth says

    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.

  18. DannyEastVillage says

    The vibe I get from MaryM is the same vibe I used to get from those humorless, terminally-politically correct lesbians of the 1970s who could smile and exchange pleasantries about NOTHING–who felt called upon to make sure nobody makes a joke about anything they didn’t approve of, who couldn’t stop themselves from looking at the dark side of everything and everybody who wasn’t as miserable as themselves. Bleeech!! Mary, I bet everybody you know crosses the street when they see you coming.

  19. Ben in Oakland says

    Mary, Tom strobhar is a professional antigay activist, as well as some kind of financial whiz boy. I’m wondering about you. What is your full name. What do you do? Because the comments you’re making lead me to beliee you might be an expressl while presenting yourself as decaf.

  20. millerbeach says

    God bless you, Mr. Howard Schultz…God bless your soul. God bless you for doing the right thing, saying the right thing. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Oh, I love your coffee, BTW!

  21. jamal49 says

    Party on, Garth. You and MaryM (as in Matalin?) make quite a team. Perhaps wedding bells should be in your future.

    Anyway, one can own one share in a company and be able to speak at a stockholder/shareholder annual meeting.

    This is changing, though, as some corporate Boards are amending by-laws to require a minimum amount of stock ownership before being allowed to speak.

    There are several “professional shareholders” on the left and the right that make a hobby out of attending annual meetings and being a nuisance.

  22. Rob says

    Why do Companies divide their business by entering the political arena? You know if the table was turned and a business that supports traditional marriage said the same thing, their wold be nation wide riots and protest.

    I’m curious to watch what happens as more people who are currently uniformed about Starbucks stance on Marriage as well as support for Planned Parnenthood become more informed. Many people in these Cities where these Starbucks are, are lucky to even know who the VP of the US is or what the sequester is, so they likely have no idea about Starbucks political stance. They should celebrate their pride and post sign above their business signs to inform the public of their “Gay Pride”.

    I’m further interested what happens to their business in Countries that unlike America hold moral standards in their Country as well as Religious views. Just because America has become demoralized, doesn’t mean that other Countries have demoralized their Country regardless to pressure from the UN and Countries like the US that have over a 70% divorce rate. U.S. is not exactly the model Country to take advice from about marriage with a over 70% failure rate. It is like taking sound business advice from someone that has gone bankrupt

  23. Jess says

    @Mary – You really have no idea what you are talking about. I worked for Starbucks as a Store Manager for 11 years and I have to say that the benefits are the same whether you are part-time or salary. If you work more than 18-20 hours on average a week, you get them. Health insurance (supporting married or domestic partners living together), bean stock, 401K, vacation time, tuition assistance, free Lb. of coffee/week, and the list goes on. You obviously have no proof or know anything about this because if you did, you wouldn’t be saying the things you are. Get your facts straight!!!

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