The departure of North American President Rossann Williams is just the latest leadership shakeup at Starbucks. The company announced Friday the executive, who played a key role in anti-union efforts the past year, would be replaced by Asia Pacific President Sara Trilling.
Meanwhile, Starbucks is still searching for its next CEO, which interim chief Howard Schultz said will be an outsider. Former CEO Kevin Johnson retired in April, forcing longtime former CEO Schultz to step in for the transition.
“For the future of the company, we need a domain of experience and expertise in a number of disciplines that we don’t have now,” Schultz told the Wall Street Journal in an interview. “It requires a different type of leader.”
Starbucks is in a period of transition as Schultz shuffles around multiple leadership roles amid historic labor efforts. After a Buffalo-area store voted in December to become the first unionized Starbucks in the U.S., union efforts across the country spilled over.
In May, the National Labor Relations Board accused Starbucks of 29 charges of unfair labor practices related to the Buffalo effort, including, “interfering with, restraining and coercing employees” that sought to unionize. Williams had spent a significant amount of time in Buffalo following labor efforts.
“We don’t believe that a third party should lead our people, so we are in a battle for the hearts and minds of our people and we are going to be successful,” Schultz said at a New York Times event.
Schultz has promised to raise wages for baristas this year, noting that union stores will now need to bargain separately. Starbucks is far from the only company to battle a recent influx of labor efforts across its locations. Apple and others are seeing similar movements and are raising wages and benefits to compel retail workers to vote against unions. Starbucks already offers medical, educational and paid time off benefits.
As a company that keeps getting stirred up this year, Starbucks is seeing steeper declines in the market. As of Monday, Starbucks stock is down 38.4% year-to-date, 15% more than S&P 500 losses.