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Shareholders irked to be left out of Starbucks meeting: ‘We have the right to be inside’

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BY Matt Markovich

SEATTLE — While Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shared his concerns of man’s inhumanity to man and called for a more “civilized” world outside Tuesday’s annual shareholder’s meeting, dozens Starbucks stockholders were left out in the cold.

They didn’t come early enough to grab one of 3,000 seats inside McCaw Hall at Seattle Center, where the 24th annual shareholder’s meeting was being held.

“We have the right to be inside,” said Susan Hoyne, who says she’s a Starbucks stockholder. “There absolutely no feeling for the stockholders at all. I’m very, very upset with Starbucks.

She wasn’t alone. Many were told by Starbucks staff that the Hall was at capacity and couldn’t be let in to the three-hour meeting.

“I don’t believe it,” said Nancy Markunssen. “They said you can go to the tent to get coffee and cake.”

Starbucks had set up a tent with two large screen TVs that could hold about two dozen away from a drizzling rain. But police officers at the scene say hundreds were outside when the meeting began. Most left because they couldn’t get in.

Inside, Starbucks executives told the audience about their plans to expand sales of new coffee, it’s rewards program, and new stores in China. Starbucks will introduce a new prepaid Visa card that will earn Starbucks loyalty points that could be exchanged among many things, your favorite latte.

But several baristas wanted to hear more from Schultz and the company’s pledge to improve its scheduling polices.

“I wanted to hear more discussion about problems facing baristas,” said Starbucks barista Carlos Neito.

He was one of four barista’s that were handing out coffee cup sleeves before the meeting began. “Our Time Counts” was printed on the sleeves. It’s a reference to a push by Working Washington, a union-backed labor rights group that has been asking Starbucks to enact a “secure scheduling” policy to protect workers from schedule changes with little or no advance warning.

Starbucks is accusing Working Washington of putting up a bogus Starbucks-inspired website hours before the meeting began which said the meeting had been rescheduled because of “business concerns.” The phrase business concerns is one used as a reason why employees need to be reschedule with little warning.

A call to Working Washington to respond to Starbucks’ accusation has not been returned.

Schultz alluded to the bogus website after he welcomed everyone to the meeting.

“There was some rumor that the meeting was canceled, obviously you didn’t get the memo,” Schultz told stockholders.

But one barista was able to ask Schultz at the end of the meeting during the question and answer period about a secure scheduling policy.

“I really wanted to bring this to his attention because it effects a third of America, not being able to properly plan your life,” said Darrion Sjoquist, who is a fulltime barista.

Schultz answered by saying the company is trying to find a technology that will make it easy for managers around the world to schedule employees with reasonable notice.

The Seattle City Council is considering a secure scheduling law that would restrict how employee alter their employees working hours. Several cities around the country have similar laws. If adopted, Starbucks employees working within the city limits would be covered.