As Starbucks wages an aggressive anti-union campaign resulting in the firing of 16 pro-union workers, the company’s chairwoman has been running an investment firm raking in millions in fees from unionized workers’ pension funds while delivering subpar returns to retirees.
Starbucks chairwoman Mellody Hobson has been publicly defending the coffee giant’s union-busting activities. She recently told Starbucks shareholders that while “we absolutely understand and recognize the right of our partners to organize,” the company will refuse to stay neutral in union elections because that “limits our ability to speak to our partners in certain ways, and that goes directly against the DNA of the company.”
At the same time, Hobson is leading Ariel Investments, which manages more than $640 million in assets for Chicago-area pension funds, earning the firm more than $3 million annually in fees. The members and retirees of those pension funds are overwhelmingly represented by unions — including the same one, SEIU, that is seeking to organize Starbucks workers.
In effect, Chicago-area union members are financing — with fees and poor returns — Hobson’s career, all while she helps lead a Fortune 500 company working to block a union drive and prevent a landmark victory for the larger labor movement.
This report was published on April 15, 2022