Starbucks CEO starts petition against government shutdown


By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian

NEW YORK, Oct 10 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp plansto circulate petitions to customers across the United Statesurging lawmakers to reopen the partially closed government andavoid a looming default, the coffee chain's CEO Howard Schultzsaid on Thursday.

Schultz said he was acting because of a "sad and strikingrealization that the American people have no platform with whichto voice their frustration and outrage" over the shutdown, whichbegan last week after Democrats rejected Republican efforts toundercut the Affordable Care Act.

The "voluntary, non-partisan" petition asks Congress and theWhite House to reopen the government, pay U.S. debts on time,and pass a long-term bipartisan budget deal by the year-end.

Copies will be available in Starbucks stores, online, and intear-out ads due to run on Friday in the New York Times, theWall Street Journal, USA Today and the Washington Post. Fromthis Friday through the weekend, people can take a signedpetition to a Starbucks store or sign it in a store. They canalso sign the petition online.

Schultz also sent letters on Thursday to business leaders,encouraging them to sign on to his initiative. He said he hadspoken with leaders of half of the 30 companies listed in theDow Jones Industrial Average and "every CEO I spoke to shared myconcern and my outrage about the situation in Washington."

Schultz, one of the most prominent CEOs in the United Statesand a registered Democrat, would not specify which companies hehad contacted.

He said he had also talked to the White House and toDemocratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman PaulRyan, the chairs of the Senate and House Budget committees incharge of negotiations over the federal debt limit.

"It was apparent to me that we are on a collision coursewith time. That is why we made the decision to proceed" Schultzsaid of those discussions.

Schultz said he was acting primarily as an American citizen,not an executive whose company's profits rely heavily onconsumer confidence and spending.

"I'm not doing this because of the business angle," he said.

Still, in times of extreme political dysfunction, "theresponsibility of a company of any kind is changing because wehave to provide for employees, help the communities we serve,and obviously, the government is not providing the leadership itonce did."

The White House has a similar online petition platformcalled We the People. Launched by the Obama administration in2011, it guarantees responses to petitions that accrue 100,000signatures within 30 days.

That site is currently offline, a casualty of thefar-reaching shutdown that has closed national parks, forcedfederal employees into furloughs, and halted benefits to thepoor.


Schultz is not the only business leader speaking out againstthe shutdown. Around 250 business groups sent a letter tolawmakers on Monday pleading with them to fund the governmentand raise the debt limit while cutting entitlementspending.

Big business, which often sides with the Republican party,has found itself marginalized by conservative groups opposed tocompromise in the country's current fiscal crisis. Companiesfear that a prolonged shutdown and subsequent default would havea catastrophic effect on the U.S. economy.

Schultz is typically more outspoken on political issues thanhis fellow executives. During the battle over raising the debtceiling in August 2011, Schultz called for Americans to stopmaking political contributions until lawmakers struck abipartisan deal on the country's debt, revenue and spending.

He has not made a contribution since and says this isunlikely to change in the future.

In a separate move this week aimed at setting an example tolawmakers, Schultz told employees the firm would give customersa free tall coffee if they buy a drink for a fellow patron.

"Please join me in helping our customers come together tosupport and connect with one another, even as we wait for ourelected officials to do the same for our country," he said in amessage on Tuesday.

After a series of mass shootings across the United States,Schultz wrote an open letter to customers in September, askingthem to voluntarily stop bringing guns into Starbucks.

Schultz says shareholders have not complained about hissometimes polarizing outspokenness as the firm has shown it is a"a performance-driven company through the lens of humanity."

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