Thought for the Day: Corporate “Ethics”

Builders;

Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee, is making the rounds on TV talk shows sharing his perspective on how we all should vote in the upcoming elections. To many people, this is an important endorsement, because Starbucks has a very carefully crafted global image as supporting human rights and freedoms. The only problem with their reputation is that it is largely hypocritical bullshit. 

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Above, photographed on my dining room table, is all the evidence anyone needs to understand that Mr.Schultz is a first order hypocrite. This isn’t a joke, this mug was purchased in the Starbucks Hanoi location by my buddy Terry Hand. Terry knows that I detest totalitarian police states, but he sends me souvenirs like this little gem to remind me that everyone supports human rights…..as long as they don’t get in the way of corporate profits or put a damper on people getting to tourist sites they can brag about on their FB page.

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Anyone can go to the Starbucks website, and see they have great passages devoted to supporting the human rights and liberties on ‘every employee and every location.’ The specific rights that the company will defend are listed in detail. It all sounds really great, right up to the point that common sense kicks in, and you realize that more than half the things listed, such as right to form unions and the right to free speech, are actually serious state crimes in Vietnam, and the government doesn’t hesitate to jail people for life over them. This isn’t just WW the unapologetic nationalist speaking: get a look at Amnesty International’s comments on the state human rights violations in Vietnam. Evidently, the Starbucks “Global Human Rights” statement prominently featured in their ‘holier than others’ image is secondary to opening a new store anywhere they can turn a profit. This doesn’t even touch the idea they already have 2,000 stores in China, and that worker’s paradise isn’t exactly compliant with the ethics preached on the Starbucks website. And that, makes Mr. Schultz a hypocrite.

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If you personally like coffee the color of dirty motor oil, with the taste of battery acid, then I say you should buy at Starbucks. If your morning isn’t complete without having to stand in line behind grown men who got out of their Prius and couldn’t make up their mind if they wanted a “Half-Caf, non fat soil milk late” or a “no caf, Venti cafe misto” Then it is off to Starbucks; if you like being lectured that “Calling a Barista a “waitress” or any other offensive sexist demeaning name is not tolerated” than off to Mr. Shultz’s you go. But, anyone who chooses to go to Starbucks because they really believe that the company never put profit ahead of workers, has been duped. Please understand I am not suggesting that Howard Schultz is no different that other greed driven CEO’s. He is different; because he wants you to believe a fairy tale, and take your money, whereas the other CEOs just want your money.

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There are 20,000 Starbucks locations on this planet, and it is a particular point of pride for me that there was one in my tiny town in rural Florida. Was, because it went bankrupt after one year. The same building is now occupied by a local, non chain coffee shop. It has been there for four years, and they are doing fine. The prices are a little lower, the smug attitudes are gone, and oh yeah, they don’t have a website full of bullshit about how much they care about human rights, nor a CEO telling me how to vote.

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-ww.

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Thought for the Day: As 9/11 Fades into history

Builders:

For a number of years after 9/11, my Father would often speak with a nurse who worked in his cardiologist’s office. The woman had lost her brother on 9/11, he was working as a police officer in the World Trade Center. The woman had learned that my father, for a very small reason, had not been on the 89th floor that day. She held out hope against hope, that some similar reason had drawn her brother away before the collapse. She came to believe that my father, who was very kind to her and patiently listened, believed her.

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Eventually they found her brother’s service pistol, identified it by it’s serial number. This didn’t convince her he was gone. My father, when directly confronted with this woman’s anguish, wouldn’t do anything to extinguish the tiny flame of hope she desperately kept. Between WWII, Korea and Vietnam, my father had seen plenty of hope extinguished, but something inside him couldn’t be a participant in it now, particularly when it became apparent that fewer and fewer people in the woman’s life could once again listen to her consider the possibility that her brother might be in a hospital somewhere, misidentified with a brain injury.

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Although each of these conversations distressed him deeply, my Father never made any attempt to change offices nor arrive on the woman’s day off.  It was just a quiet obligation that he felt that fate had handed him. After a number of years, the woman no longer worked in the office. My father never said anything about it, but it was obvious that it relieved him of a great weight.

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Today, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, the nation’s remembrance is beginning to feel a little rehearsed. Every year, more people become distant from it, just like the woman’s co-workers in her office. In time it was fading for them, but not for her. I have no idea where she is today, but I hope she has found some measure of peace at her own pace. It’s a nice thought, and I want it to be true, but I keep having a disturbing image of a very lonely human being carefully studying the images of todays televised remembrance, looking once again for the face of her brother.

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I took the photo above on 9/12/01. The letter is taped to Washington Rock, a 500′ ridge a few miles from my parents’ house in N.J. It has a direct view of lower Manhattan from 10 miles. Hundreds of people stood in silence there and watched the smoke pour out of the city. The letter was a note to a dead friend promising to take care of his children and to raise them as he would have. Below it is my Father’s business card. Note the address of World Trade Center #2. Read the whole story at this link: Thought for the Day – 9/11