By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
NEW YORK, October 10 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp plans to circulate petitions to customers across the UnitedStates urging lawmakers to reopen the partially closedgovernment and avoid a looming default, the coffee chain's CEOHoward Schultz said 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 end of theyear.
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 morning to businessleaders, encouraging them to sign onto his initiative. He saidthat he had spoken with leaders of half of the 30 companieslisted in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and "every CEO Ispoke to shared my concern and my outrage about the situation inWashington."
Schultz would not specify which companies he had contacted.
In addition, Schultz said he had talked to the White House,to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and to Congressman Paul Ryan(R-WI), the chairpersons of the Senate and House Budgetcommittees in charge of negotiations over the federal debtlimit.
"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, one of the most prominent CEOs in the UnitedStates, said he was acting primarily as an American citizen, notan executive whose company's profits rely heavily on consumerconfidence and spending.
"I'm not doing this because of the business angle," Schultzsaid.
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."
"In this case we're leveraging the sense of community amongour customers and providing a vehicle for their voices to beheard," Schultz added.
The White House has a similar online petition platformcalled We the People. Launched by the Obama administration in2011, it guarantees responses to petitions that accrued 100,000signatures within 30 days.
That site is currently offline, a casualty of thefar-reaching shutdown that has closed down national parks,forced federal employees into furloughs, and halted the issuanceof benefits to the poor.
HISTORY OF INVOLVEMENT
Schultz, a registered Democrat, is not the only businessleader speaking out against the shutdown. Around 250 businessgroups sent a letter to lawmakers on Monday pleading with themto fund the government and raise the debt limit while cuttingentitlement spending.
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.
After a series of mass shootings across the country, Schultzwrote an open letter to Starbucks customers in September, askingthem to voluntarily stop bringing their firearms into itsstores.
Schultz says Starbucks shareholders have not complainedabout his sometimes polarizing outspokenness because the companyhas shown it is a "a performance-driven company through the lensof humanity."
- Politics & Government
- Howard Schultz