Would You Like Some Race Relations with That Half-Caf Caramel Soy Latte?

by Leigh Anderson
Originally Published: 

This is not the first time that Starbucks has waded into social issues: “Schultz has a history of activism with the ubiquitous multibillion dollar corporation,” writes the NY Daily News, “openly insisting that Starbucks supports gay marriage and gun control, even if that brews discontent with some investors.” He’s hosted a series of open forums on race relations in the wake of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and feels that “the cup-writing campaign is his idea of paying those discussions forward.” Which doesn’t entirely make sense, because the forums were about race relations, whereas the barista-interaction is about getting a cup of coffee, but hey, he’s a billionaire, and billionaires tend to have their whims indulged.

Schultz doesn’t seem especially concerned if this directive breeds discontent with his workers, who perhaps don’t want to combine their cappuccino-frothing with social activism, and it will be interesting to see if the “Do you have a moment to talk about X” that currently plagues pedestrians will now infiltrate all the nation’s coffee shops.

While it’s admirable that Starbucks want to put its corporate heft behind progressive causes, burdening low-wage retail workers with potentially fraught (and hostile!) conversations seems way above their pay grade.

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