Starbucks is on a mission to recruit a lost generation of America’s young, poor and unemployed to correct a decades-long pattern of neglect in corporate America.
While President Barack Obama continues to challenge the nation’s largest corporations to hire more young men of color, Starbucks is leading an ambitious effort to hire 100,000 young African-American and Hispanic employees over the next three years – a disenfranchised segment of the workforce that has been largely ignored by employers.
It’s a tall order – but a worthwhile effort that’s long overdue.
Starbucks is forming a coalition of large corporations with a goal to hire 100,000 low-income, 16-to-24-year-olds as apprentices, interns and part- and full-time employees by 2018.
Some skeptics may initially dismiss the initiative by asking how much Starbucks plans to pay those workers – which is a valid question — but I believe the idea has merit because the more workers of color who are hired, the greater their opportunities will be in the years ahead.
Consider this: In February, the unemployment rate for African-Americans was 10.4 percent, while the comparable rates for whites, Hispanics and Asians were 4.7 percent, 6.6 percent and 4.0 percent, in that order, according to data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday.
And nationally, 22% of blacks, 20% of Native Americans, 16% of Latinos, 11% of whites and 8% of Asian Americans are considered “disconnected youth,” according to a study by the Social Science Research Council. There translates to an estimated 5.5 million Americans, ages 16 to 24, who are not employed or in school.
For the past several years, Obama has hosted economic summits at the White House to encourage America’s CEOs to hire more workers – and consider hiring more workers of color – because he knows he can’t legislate the hiring of Americans.
Last month, during a powerful eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was murdered with nine others inside Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina by white supremacist Dylann Roof, Obama took a well-crafted shot a racial injustice in corporate America.
“Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal,” Obama said.
The Starbucks plan comes after Obama created “My Brother’s Keeper,” a sweeping national public-private partnership to empower America’s young black men and other boys of color. “My Brother’s Keeper” began in 2014 with a $200 million commitment from a number of foundations.
On Monday, the White House announced the release of a 36-page report entitled “Economic Costs Of Youth Disadvantage And High-Return Opportunities For Change,” which examines the barriers that disadvantaged youth face, particularly young men of color, and quantifies the enormous costs this poses to the U.S. economy. In particular, this report focuses on the significant disparities in education, exposure to the criminal justice system, and employment that persist between young men of color and other Americans.
On a conference call with journalists on Monday, Broderick Johnson, White House Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, commended Starbucks for its hiring initiative, and said “it makes sense from an economic standpoint to invest in young people” and close “persistent opportunity gaps for young men of color.” Johnson emphasized that the Starbucks hiring plan is “not charity” but a chance for Starbucks to hire qualified applicants.
I’m not suggesting that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz created this hiring initiative solely because of Obama. But Schultz is embarking on a plan for Starbucks to become more socially responsible and that deserves praise simply because so many companies have systematically shut out workers of color, and black men in particular.
To hire the 100,000 workers, Starbucks is teaming up with more than a dozen companies including, Macy’s, JP Morgan Chase, Wal-Mart, Target, Microsoft Corp., Taco Bell, JC Penney, CVS Heath and Hilton Worldwide.
“We’re not displacing jobs, but creating incremental opportunities in most of these companies,” Schultz told The Wall Street Journal.
Some Americans embrace Schultz’s efforts, while others have openly criticized him for jumping into a prickly issue of race and suggesting that Schultz stick to what he does best: making coffee.
So while Schultz urges America’s largest companies to hire 100,000 black and Hispanic employees, I’m hoping that a dozen more big firms join Schultz’s landmark campaign, which follows Obama’s broad vision to uplift young men of color who have been overlooked and underappreciated in the job market for decades.
What do you think?