In addition to creating and selling my art, I work as a barista for Starbucks. I love my job. I think there is something romantic about working through art school at a coffee shop, and it has helped me get to know the people in my community a lot better since I am a transplant here in West Newton, Mass.
Recently I was very sorry to hear about a disturbing act of homophobia by Starbucks employees at a location in Long Island. Starbucks is investigating the incident, and I’m sure it will be dealt with appropriately.
What makes this incident so shocking to me is that it is so far from my own experience working at the Starbucks store in Newtonville. I am very much out of the closet as a married gay man, and I couldn’t imagine being treated by my manager or any of the other staff with any amount of disrespect or discrimination.
Starbucks not only covers the basics–spousal and partner benefits, non-discrimination hiring policies, etc–Starbucks fosters an atmosphere that is open and affirming. They hire employees (we call them partners) who are respectful of diversity at all levels.
I can think of many examples. In March the Boston Globe ran an article about my work as an artist, highlighting my experiences coming to terms with my sexuality as a religious person and how that informed my art. The day the article was published, the other partners at the store congratulated me for the exposure and posted the article on the bulletin board in the back room. All the partners were cheerful and supportive that day–regardless of what they may or may not believe about sexuality and religion.
At our store we employ people from a variety of backgrounds and beliefs, including a Jew, a Christian, a Jehovah’s Witness, and an atheist. We all respect each other, and I have never heard someone disparage another because of who they are. If anything its been the opposite. I have heard support and affirmation between partners when it wasn’t expected or required.
Working in a safe environment where I am free to be appropriately open about my life decisions makes me more productive, and it benefits everyone. I wish more companies could be like Starbucks.