Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was on the Daily Show yesterday talking about the company's big announcement that it's entered into a plan with Arizona State University to cover any employee's college tuition for AU's online degree. 

In the recent-Seattle tradition (see wealthy local investor Nick Hanaeur on the $15 minimum wage and Bill Gates senior's attempt to pass a high-earners' income tax back in 2010), the one-percenters around here are saying and doing big things to try and address income inequality. (Schultz was also great on gay rights back when that issue was roiling, by the way.)

Jon Stewart praises Schultz's ASU initiative.

However, he also asks Schultz about the minimum wage (go to the 4:36 mark). Here's what Schultz says. 

Seattle has approved $15, it’s got to go to the voters. I don’t know if that’s the right number or not. We’ll follow the law. I think there'll be unintended consequences of small businesses not being able to support that. But that’s not the issue. The issue is that we have to provide not only a good wage, but we gotta provide total compensation. 

Hardly a hearty endorsement. "We'll follow the law." ?

And for starters, Freudian Slip? The issue doesn't have to go to the voters.

Freudian Slip? The issue doesn't have to go to the voters.

Fizz is curious now if we'll see Schultz's name on some of the potential initiatives, such as the one from Sea-Tac's Richard Forschler (or a similar Tim Eyman one), that would only let the state set the minimum wage, preempting any local rules?

As for small businesses. Seattle's new law gives small businesses seven years to get to $15, with a total compensation requirement that can include tips along the way.

As for total compensation: Schultz is only half right that wages aren't the only issue. Yes, there are connected issues like affordable health care, transit, housing, and education. But those are, in fact, separate from baseline wages. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's negotiations with business ended up making that point clear by ultimately phasing out health care and tip credit as part of the paycheck equation.

Starbucks' ASU initiative deserves big praise, but Fizz wishes Schultz had his facts right on national TV about Seattle's historic $15 minimum wage law and its broader implications for changing the conversation.

Barista's at Starbucks make around $9 to $10 nationally



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