- America First Legal Foundation, a conservative nonprofit, sent a letter Monday to the Seattle office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission urging the regulatory body to investigate Starbucks’ diversity, equity and inclusion policies.
- In a separate letter to Starbucks’ board, the nonprofit — which is headed by Stephen Miller, a former senior advisor to President Donald Trump — argued that two of its mentorship programs discriminate against White and Asian employees.
- Starbucks has implemented a number of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives including diverse employment goals, anti-discrimination trainings and efforts to link executive pay to DEI outcomes.
Miller’s group joins the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, in opposing Starbucks’ DEI initiatives. The NCPPR sued the chain earlier this year, alleging Starbucks discriminated against White job candidates by setting diversity goals.
America First Legal Foundation is specifically targeting “a mentorship program connecting Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) partners to senior leaders,” implemented in October 2020. The conservative group alleges that initiative, as well as a Leadership Accelerator Program implemented in January, discriminates against White and Asian employees by connecting historically marginalized people to career opportunities.
Opponents of corporate DEI practices have accused such programs of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and other laws passed to protect the civil rights of Black Americans. The 1866 law passed over presidential veto to guarantee civil rights to Black people emancipated from slavery by the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Such allegations fit into a pattern of conservative activism documented by Harvard Law School that targets racial justice, diversity and inclusion initiatives at publicly traded companies. These efforts are similar to a long-running conservative campaign against affirmative action in academia, and conservative consumer complaints about diversity in cultural products. In some areas, this push has escalated to the level of state legislation banning some forms of anti-discrimination training.
A Starbucks spokesperson said DEI commitments were important to the company.
“Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome, is at the heart of Starbucks Mission and Values — and we continue to strive to make Starbucks a welcoming place for our partners (employees) and customers through our commitments to inclusion and diversity,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to Restaurant Dive.