Starbucks vs. Southern Company

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson swiftly and courageously apologized for and condemned the racist and false arrest of two-African-Americans waiting for a colleague at a Starbucks in Philadelphia.

For months now, we, the CDLU, have asked Southern Company to take similar actions against their “vendor,” alter-ego, or as The Root labeled, sister-wife Balch & Bingham, the embattled law firm that engaged in alleged racist and unsavory conduct.

In January, Jim Kerr, the General Counsel of Southern Company told us they were not going to get involved in the alleged racist and unsavory conduct of their sister-wife.

[Read our update: Starbucks CEO Confronts Racism while Southern Company CEO Does Nothing.]

As we told Southern Company in December, if Balch refused to engage in a plan, Southern Company should:

  1. Suspend all legal work with Balch & Bingham immediately.
  2. Conduct a top-to-bottom review of all interactions between Alabama Power [Southern’s wholly-owned subsidiary] and Balch. If any actions of Alabama Power employees are found to be unethical, criminal or unscrupulous, fire all the bad apples regardless of tenure or seniority.
  3. Publicly apologize to the African-American community for the alleged actions of the law firm they founded and entrusted.

Now the heat is on Southern Company’s CEO Tom Fanning. Will he change course and override Kerr? Will Fanning be the villain or the hero?

Starbucks’ CEO Johnson said he wrote his message Saturday night for three reasons, “First, to once again express our deepest apologies to the two men who were arrested with a goal of doing whatever we can to make things right. Second, to let you know of our plans to investigate the pertinent facts and make any necessary changes to our practices that would help prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again. And third, to reassure you that Starbucks stands firmly against discrimination or racial profiling.

Fanning should follow Johnson’s lead.

The irony of the Starbucks disaster is two men were falsely arrested, much like victim Burt Newsome who was falsely arrested in an alleged criminal conspiracy spearheaded allegedly by a Balch & Bingham partner, since fired and now selling mattresses.

Southern Company or Fanning can no longer remain silent.