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Reuters reports that Starbucks is the subject of a complaint made to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that argues the company "is discriminating against white employees by only allowing minorities to enroll in two training programs."

The group, America First Legal (AFL), asks the EEOC "to launch an investigation into the programs, which were designed by Starbucks to boost workplace diversity … AFL on Tuesday sent a separate letter to Mellody Hobson, the chair of Starbucks' board of directors, claiming Starbucks is violating its fiduciary duty to shareholders by maintaining the 'racist' programs created in 2020 and earlier this year."

Reuters writes that "Starbucks in January said 71% of its employees are female and 48% are people of color.

"'This means that white employees, particularly white men, are statistically underrepresented in the company's workforce, and potentially the subjects of invidious discrimination,' AFL said in its letter to the EEOC."

The story notes that "the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, sued Starbucks over its diversity policies in Washington state court in August.  The group objected to Starbucks setting hiring goals for Blacks and other people of color, awarding contracts to 'diverse' suppliers and advertisers, and tying executive pay to diversity."

Starbucks has denied wrongdoing in the Washington State suit, and has not yet commented on the new EEOC filing.

However, the Reuters story also points out that there apparently have been no employee complaints about the minority training programs, because AFL asked the EEOC to take the rare step of investigating Starbucks without one.

KC's View:

Just what Starbucks needs at a moment when it is dealing with a unionization movement.

Seems to me that any retailer with training programs targeted to minority employees, or diversity initiatives that look to broaden the employee base and supplier communities, ought to pay attention to this story … because this EEOC filing by AFL almost certainly is a stalking horse.  If it is successful, there will be additional complaints and lawsuits filed.

But let's put that aside for a moment, and focus on the real mindset behind this complaint.

White grievance.  Especially white male grievance.

What's invidious (to use AFL's word), in my view, is coming in from the outside to try and create discontent and resentment where there is none.

Let's be clear.  These days, Starbucks - and pretty much every retailer out there - is hiring almost anyone who comes through ther front door.  So nobody is not getting hired.  And, I suspect, anyone hired who needs training is getting it, because in the end you need certain skills - not just a pulse - to work in a Starbucks.  (One of my sons wrote a terrific college application essay about his work as a barista, describing the making of multiple and complicated drinks in detail, and ending with the line, "I know if I can do that, I am capable of anything.")

Training programs designed for minorities almost always there because some folks need help so they can compete with folks who are part of majorities.  I don't know the details of Starbucks' programs, but I'm pretty confident they were designed to help some people, not discriminate against others.

But that's not what this complaint is about.  AFL, it seems to me, is about stoking resentment among anyone who is white, and especially among white males.  (Because if we're honest, we all know how tough white males always have had it.)

And as I said above - every business that has made diversity a priority needs to be concerned about this.  Because if this invidious argument makes any headway, people who delight in stoking resentment will be coming for you next.

Diversity initiatives are about broadening companies' perspectives and influences, because in doing so they are better able to serve customer bases that increasingly are diverse.  (Which is AFL's real problem, of course.)