Howard Shultz and I were partners once. The Starbucks Coffee Company in my historical fiction novel Tripio was, in real life, far and away the best workplace I have experience, before or since. There have been a lot more workplaces since I hung up my apron than I care to admit. My point is, it has been a while.
I left Starbucks behind many times in the since years. My physical body left in 1994. I left it behind emotionally and editorially a second time when I finished writing Tripio. It is impossible to get the company entirely out of my system since one sees a store practically every time you leave the house.
But, I haven’t actively followed Starbuck either. Not that I need to. Family and friends send me articles about Starbucks quite often. And so that is how I came to read the NY Times article on why Howard Shultz is taking the attempts to unionize Starbucks so personally.
I referenced my novel Tripio because that time (1990-1994) is mentioned in the article in the following expert, “Mr. Schultz wrote that an employee making $20,000 per year in 1991 would have been able to cash out 1991 stock options for than $50,000 in 1996.” Not to question the Times accuracy but Howard would have never used the word employee, it would have been partners. It is how Howard always, always, always referred to folks who worked at Starbucks. It is how he referred to me when he shook my hand and gave me my Bean Stock Bravo Award.
I felt like a partner at Starbucks, not an employee.
I feel like Howard would be happy to hear that. It is want he still want to hear from everyone who works at Starbucks today. Problem is, Howard, ol pardner, it is no longer possible.
One question I leave out of Tripio that I still ask to this day is, Why didn’t Starbucks just stay a small, regional company? And a great place to work? Why does getting bigger and bigger have to be the goal? When is enough enough?
I do think Howard Schultz has the best interest of the current Starbucks partners at heart when he goes to work every day. Now there are just too many of them these days. 35 years removed from Tripio, Starbucks is a massive global entity. That must have been part of Howard’s plan. But the cost of all that is losing the partners he had in getting him there. Now, he has employees, like every other CEO out there.