Interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on labor unions

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Schultz delivers remarks at the Starbucks 2016 Investor Day in Manhattan, New York
Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz delivers remarks at the Starbucks 2016 Investor Day in Manhattan, New York, U.S. December 7, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

March 16 (Reuters) - Starbucks' longtime former Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz will return temporarily after current CEO Kevin Johnson said on Wednesday that he will retire from the role on April 4th. The moves come as a unionization drive at the company's U.S. cafes heats up. read more

A federal labor board has accused Starbucks (SBUX.O) of unlawfully retaliating against two employees in a Phoenix, Arizona, cafe for trying to organize their store and one investor group is urging the company to take a neutral stance toward unionization.

The group, led by Trillium Asset Management and SOC Investment Group, said Starbucks risked damaging its positive reputation as a pro-employee brand by fighting the union.

Schultz has long said Starbucks did not need unions because it works so closely with employees, whom it calls "partners."

Following are comments the executive and former U.S. independent presidential candidate, has made about unions over the years:

SCHULTZ COMMENTS PUBLISHED IN 2012 EDITION OF HIS BIOGRAPHY: 'Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time'

"I was convinced that under my leadership, employees would come to realize that I would listen to their concerns. If they had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union."


"If you look at the history of unions, unions arrived in America because there were a lot of bad actors, bad actors of companies."

"Unions arrived on the scene because companies were not doing the right thing for their employees. Unions have an obligation and responsibility to protect their employees but they're also very good companies in America, very good managements in America, who recognize that we have to share success, that not every business decision is an economic one."

"Unions have a role to play. But unions are not the answer. The answer to inequality is a comprehensive tax reform.”


"What the leadership team has done in Buffalo is what we have always done. We listen. We learn. We get better together. No partner has ever needed to have a representative seek to obtain things we all have as partners at Starbucks. And I am saddened and concerned to hear anyone thinks that is needed now."

In November, Schultz shared advice he received from a rabbi to employees who had been ordered to a large meeting with managers in Buffalo, where the first of Starbucks' 9,000 U.S. company locations were deciding whether to join the union.

In the meeting, Schultz likened Starbucks' pro-employee stance to Holocaust prisoners in concentration camps sharing blankets, according to media reports. The remarks led to backlash on social media.

"One person for every six was given a blanket .. .most people shared their blanket with five other people. And rabbi says to me, take your blanket and go share it with five other people. And so much of that story is threaded into what we have tried to do at Starbucks. Share our blanket."

Reporting by Doyinsola Oladipo; editing by Anna Driver

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