23 Mar 2016 Starbucks Investors Vote on Employee Protection Shareholder Proposal
Human Rights Proposal Intended to Protect Company Workers Who Engage in Political and Civic Activities, Among Other Human Rights Concerns
Seattle, WA / Washington, D.C. – At today’s annual meeting of Starbucks shareholders in Seattle, Washington, Justin Danhof, Esq., representing the National Center for Public Policy Research, presented a stockholder resolution designed in part to protect the coffee company’s workers from potential discrimination stemming from their private, legal political activities.
“Today, we made an important step in ensuring that all Starbucks employees are free to engage in political and civic activities without fear of retribution in the workplace,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof. “Many regions with Starbucks employees lack legal protection for a worker that is terminated for his political activities. Rather than seeking a government solution to the problem, we hope that Starbucks’ leadership will voluntarily address this issue. That is why we filed our resolution.”
The effort is part of the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project, which, among other activities promoting human rights, has so far convinced 13 major corporations employing over 5 million workers to agree not to penalize or fire employees based on their legal political or civic activities undertaken in their free time.
Although Starbucks’ management has so far declined to adopt the National Center’s initiative, other corporations, including Walmart, GE, Pfizer, Merck, Visa, PepsiCo, Home Depot and other major companies have adopted the protections after being approached by the National Center.
In presenting the proposal, Danhof stated:
Free speech and free association are under increasing attack. Some politicians want to regulate speech by broadcast journalists. Colleges are erecting “free speech zones” that – despite the name – limit speech, and now this trend has entered the corporate arena.
It’s not hard to envision a scenario in which a conservative or libertarian Starbucks employee feels ostracized to the point of reducing her or his political and civic activity. The company has a reputation of being left-leaning. CEO Howard Schultz is a prominent liberal who many on the left hope will run for president. If a conservative employee’s direct superior is also politically left-leaning, she or he might feel compelled to squash her or his political activities. Now, to be clear, the current culture is predominately anti-conservative, but our proposal would also protect liberal employees from potential discrimination.
The National Center’s proposal is on page 55 of Starbucks’ proxy statement, which is available for download here.
At press time, the final vote tally on the proposal was unavailable.
“I am delighted that our proposal was brought to the attention of many thousands of Starbucks investors and the business press,” added Danhof. “I look forward to having a continued dialogue with Starbucks management as we work to address this important issue.”
Danhof is available for comments about the shareholder meeting.
Yesterday, the National Center issued a press release announcing the proposal. It is available here.
The genesis for the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project occurred in April 2014 when the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was forced out of his job simply because he had donated to a 2008 California referendum that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Unfortunately, Mr. Eich is not uniquely situated. Only about half of American workers live in a jurisdiction that provides statutory protection against employer retaliation for engaging in First Amendment activities. And some of these laws are weaker than others. Furthermore, many corporations do not offer this protection as a condition of employment.
Announced just a year ago, the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project has already protected more than five million American workers from potential political discrimination. The project has also received significant media attention, including coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle, Politico and the Daily Caller. Danhof also appeared multiple times as a featured guest on One America News Network’s “The Rick Amato Show” to discuss various aspects of the project (here and here).
The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. Today’s Starbucks meeting marks its fourth shareholder meeting of 2016.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.