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The pay received by Starbucks executives will now be tied—at least in part—to the diversity of their workforce, incentivizing management to selectively control who is and who isn't working for Starbucks as measured by certain quotas of race.
According to USA Today, come 2025, Starbucks wants to see 30 percent of its corporate employees and 40 percent of its retail and manufacturing workforce identify as either black, indigenous, or people of color.
The announcement, made on Wednesday by CEO Kevin Johnson, mentions that part of putting that plan into action is to require every executive to attend mandatory two-hour sessions for inclusion and diversity training.
Starbucks also released findings on Wednesday from an internal ethnic breakdown in categories of retail, manufacturing, and corporate areas in the company. As it stands now, these numbers suggest that, in the area of retail for instance, Starbucks employees are made up of 53.2 percent white, 27.5 percent Hispanic or Latinx, 8 percent black, 5.1 percent Asian, 4.8 percent multiracial, and 0.6 percent American Indian or Alaskan Native. The breakdown is similarly mirrored in the other three categories.
In a letter on behalf of Starbucks, Johnson promised that these initiatives would make the beginning of a more intentional, transparent, and accountable chapter in the franchise' future.
"We will hold ourselves to the highest levels of organization, connecting and building of inclusive and diverse teams to our executive compensations program, effective immediately," Johnson said.
This wouldn't be the first time that a corporate executive has tried to balance the statistical breakdown of employees in the name of equality. Despite their best intentions, these efforts raise some concerns.
A plan released by Wells Fargo to double the ranks of its black employees over the course of the next five years is currently under review by the US Department of Labor for what could possibly be discriminatory hiring practices based on race—something prohibited by application of US Constitution Title VII.
The understanding of racial discrimination is changing to be one that people are understanding can work no matter the colour of the skin of the person being elevated. Racial discrimination might look like not hiring someone just because of the color of their skin. But it's equally true that making a positive hiring based on an applicant's skin in order to fill a quota could also be a form of discrimination. This is the understanding of Justice Clarence Thomas, and also has been a perspective that has fueled the Trump administration's new considerations of critical race theory, and their prevalence in government agency training programs.
While the letter put out by Johnson and other executives at Starbucks clearly states that they mean only to increase diversity and equality through the corporate means available to them, they might well find themselves in the same boat as Wells Fargo.
An issue that Starbucks could face is that the number of people working at Starbucks and the ethnic breakdown of that group may not be representative of the people who chose to shop and associate with the brand. In other words, attempting to shoehorn a certain racial demographic on the workforce may not actually represent or reflect the number of qualified people who want to work there.
A study put out by Statista in 2016 broke down the number of people who visited a Starbucks establishment in a six-month period. The survey took 1,381 respondents of an age group from 18-64 years of age. Forty-nine percent of respondents who answered positively were Asian-American, 33 percent were Hispanic, 28 percent were white, 21 percent were black.
These results do not mirror the employment quotas Starbucks has set for itself. These numbers might indicate that the people who work at Starbucks look very different from the people who choose to buy their product. On the other hand, these numbers might suggest that Starbucks might be trying to forcefully change the kinds of people that work at the company on a basis of race and not, primarily, as a result of free and voluntary association.
An article published in Quillette offers a similar thought: what if the things employees want for themselves look different than the progressive vision held by higher-ups? Where money is concerned, it might not be a matter of agenda that troubles employees, but rather a fear that leadership is fundamentally disconnected from the needs and wants of their workforce.
"The problem we face isn't that young workers don't respect the values of their older bosses. It's that the most culturally influential and prominent sectors of the economy now operate in an ideological universe that their own customers increasingly find unrecognizable," Quillette suggests.
Not everyone sees Starbucks' new direction as a potential problem. Joelle Emmerson, a chief executive at Paradigm, told USA Today that she believes executives at Starbucks are taking a step in the right direction.
"It looks like the administration is beginning a concerted strategy to tamp down on organizational efforts," Emmerson said.
"Such strategies don't encourage discrimination; they do the exact opposite. A wealth of research shows that in the absence of clear efforts to advance diversity, the outcome is bias against applicants and employees from underrepresented backgrounds." Emmerson is undoubtedly basing her beliefs on outcomes, which may not be exemplary of employees choice and preference to work at the coffee chain.
The national debate as the best ways to further and encourage equality in the workforce is clearly far from settled.