Former Starbucks President Howard Behar denounced a proposed scheduling rule Thursday for putting unnecessary stress on Seattle business owners.
Behar worked as president of the famed coffee shop for 21 years before eventually retiring in 2007. Starbucks started as a small coffee shop in Seattle but under his tenure it expanded into an international operation. Behar warned on The Dori Monson Show that the very city in which his company started is about to put undue pressure on business owners because of a proposed scheduling rule.
“It’s the opposite of flexible; they are making it inflexible,” Behar told Monson. “They are making it so there are so many rules that if you wanted to hire an extra person from your staff, you’d have to get permission from your employees first. So you couldn’t even hire anybody without offering the hours to those people.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and some city council members announced the new rule Feb. 4 with the aims to overhaul workplace scheduling laws. Employers would be required to provide advance notice before schedule changes and give their workers at least 11 hours off between shifts. It would also require employers to ask if their current workers want more hours before hiring any additional staff.
“You want to hire more people but they want you to ask permission so that you’re creating fewer jobs,” Behar continued. “Kind of loony bin; it just doesn’t make any sense.”
Those in support say the aim is to make schedules more fair to workers but critics warn it will hurt employers and reduce employment. Seattle has been at the forefront of progressive labor reforms including being the first to pass a $15 minimum wage in June 2014. Behar supported the increase but dismissed how the city approached it.
“What we’re doing is we’re putting a noose around these brick-and-mortar retailers and just tightening it a little bit at a time,” he said. “It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Behar has been outspoken against the proposed scheduling rule since its introduction. He bought a full-page advertisement in The Seattle Times detailing why the proposed rule would be bad. He also wrote an email to Councilwoman M. Lorena González who has been at the forefront of the policy push.
“I now am questioning if you are trying to help people or just penalize businesses for being in business,” Behar wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Seattle Weekly. “I am disgusted with this city government.”
San Francisco passed a similar law in 2014 as part of its Worker Bill of Rights. The city was among one of the first few in the country to have also passed a $15 minimum wage.
Murray and González could not be reached for comment.
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