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Starbucks Emphasizes Hiring Goals At Annual Shareholders Meeting In Seattle

Elaine Thompson
Outgoing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (right) and his successor Kevin Johnson applaud at the company's annual shareholders meeting at McCaw Hall in Seattle.

Starbucks has long taken on the mantle of socially conscious retailer. The Seattle-based coffee chain pledged commitment to those endeavors at Wednesday's annual shareholders meeting at McCaw Hall.

Executives doubled down on several hiring initiatives. The company will team up with the United Nation's refugee agency to reach its goal of hiring 10,000 refugees by 2022. It also re-upped commitments to hire more veterans and low-income youths.

Outgoing CEO Howard Schultz told shareholders there was no evidence of "brand dilution" as a result of the company's choices.

Parental Leave

Schultz also promoted the company's new parental leave policy. Announced in January, the policy would give new mothers working in stores up to six weeks leave at full pay. 

But some baristas are saying that's not enough. Two baristas presented a petition to amend the policy with more than 80,000 signatures to Starbucks headquarters on Tuesday, the day before the shareholders meeting.

"We appreciate that they tried to make a step forward, but the step was not big enough for the retail partners," said Jessica Svabenik, a barista from Gig Harbor who works in Silverdale.

Credit Simone Alicea / KNKX
Starbucks baristas Jessica Svabenik and Kristen Picciolo deliver a petition to amend a new parental leave policy at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle.

Svabenik and others take issue with the fact that the new policy gives non-store employees up to 12 weeks paid leave -- double the leave available to retail employees -- and the discrepancies between birth mothers and non-birth parents.

Schultz has long been the face of progressive workplace policies for retail workers, including benefits for part-time employees.

Passing The Baton

Wednesday's meeting also served as a transition. Current President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Johnson will officially take over as Starbucks CEO in April. On stage, Schultz handed Johnson a proverbial baton in the form of the key to the Pike Place store, the oldest Starbucks location.

"I know I have venti shoes to fill," Johnson said.

Schultz will stay on as executive chairman.

In addition to various workplace policies, Johnson and other executives covered other company developments including expanded food offerings and continued efforts on mobile order and pay.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.