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During and after the meeting, shareholders and journalists asked Schultz about a wide range of topics, from his opinion on Russia’s move into Crimea (LINK: http://nrn.com/international/crimea-crisis-complicates-restaurant-busine...) (he declined comment) to why there aren’t more gluten-free products on Starbucks’ menu (they continue to test such products, he said).
 
When asked about the proposed minimum wage increase to $15 per hour in Seattle, Schultz warned that it could have “unintended consequences of job loss,” according to the Seattle Times.

He explained that the $15-per-hour wage could backfire on workers because the increase will hurt small businesses — especially restaurants — already struggling with the high cost of food, energy and labor.

“That would not be the case at Starbucks,” he added, “but I suspect that most companies, especially small and midsized companies, would not be able to afford it.”

To CNN, Schultz praised President Barack Obama’s efforts to increase the minimum wage, but he stopped short of supporting the president’s $10.10 per hour proposal. A $10-per-hour minimum wage could hinder companies from providing benefits to workers, he said.

During the shareholder meeting, Schultz highlighted the growing gap between the “haves and have nots,” saying, “We have to ask ourselves as business leaders: What can we do to ensure we’re bringing everyone along on this journey?”

Starbucks employees tend to be paid more than minimum wage, and the coffeehouse chain offered insurance benefits to part-time workers long before any federal health care mandates, along with stock options.

“We’re not a perfect company,” he said. “We do make mistakes and have challenges. But we’re trying to do the right thing.”

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout