clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Could Have Been Clinton's Pick for Labor Secretary

Last year the coffee giant raised wages for thousands of employees

Starbucks Holds Annual Shareholders Meeting Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Consider an alternate universe in which Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz may have been her pick for Secretary of Labor. That’s according to a new list released by former Politico staffer Mike Allen which Slate reports names alleged Hillary Clinton Cabinet picks.

Schultz announced he is stepping down as CEO last month to focus his attention on building up the coffee giant’s fancy Reserve brand. But at one point, some people within the company had hoped Schultz might run for office himself. While as Slate points out, his record with labor isn’t entirely glowing, it stands in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s incoming pick for Secretary of Labor, Carl’s Jr. CEO Andy Puzder.

Schultz is characterized as relatively fair in his dealings with Starbucks’ workforce. Last year the company raised wages for thousands of employees, though some longtime so-called “partners” raised questions about how new policies would impact benefits. When a barista launched a petition for more hours in June 2016, Schultz personally reached out to him to discuss his concerns. The employee recalled the interaction as positive, describing Schultz as “humble and amazing as everyone has always said.”

Schultz has been eccentric and perhaps misguided at times, launching campaigns like the highly criticized Race Together campaign last year. Under his leadership Starbucks waged a vocal-yet-vague campaign against divisive politics during the 2016 election, subtly calling out (without naming) Trump in full-page ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. In a post-election memo to employees, he decried an “unseemly election” while calling for greater unity.

By comparison, Puzder has been a vocal critic of Obamacare and raising the minimum wage and has called for greater automation in the fast-food industry, viewing employees as obstacles to larger profits. "[Robots are] always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case," Puzder told Business Insider in March 2016.

Regardless of the actual outcome of the presidential election, the news suggests that Schultz may very well have serious political aspirations.

If Leaked List Is Accurate, Hillary’s Cabinet Choices Would Have Enraged the Democratic Left [Slate]
Trump Tapped a Fast-Food CEO for Labor Secretary. That Could Be Disastrous for Restaurant Workers [E]
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Is Stepping Down [E]
All Labor Coverage [E]

Can't get enough of Eater? Sign up for our newsletter.