Starbucks founder urges CEOs to push for end to federal shutdown

Reuters

By Lisa Baertlein

Oct 7 (Reuters) - Howard Schultz, Starbucks Corp's outspoken CEO, on Monday urged fellow business leaders toratchet up the pressure on U.S. political leaders to end thestalemate that has partially shut down the federal governmentsince last week.

"This weekend I heard from several business leaders whoshared their concern about our relative silence and impact inurging the political leadership to act on behalf of thecitizenry," Schultz wrote in a letter posted on the company'swebsite. "It is our responsibility to address the crisis ofconfidence that is needlessly being set in motion."

Starbucks released the letter after Schultz sent it to topbusiness executives, whom the company did not name.

Schultz, who was not available for further comment, said hewas "utterly disappointed by the level of irresponsibility anddysfunction we are witness to with our elected politicalleadership."

Since leading the world's biggest coffee chain through apainful but successful restructuring a few years ago, Schultzhas waded into several hot-button national debates.

During the battle over raising the debt ceiling in August2011, Schultz made headlines by calling for Americans to stopmaking political contributions until lawmakers struck abipartisan deal on the country's debt, revenue and spending.

Just last month Schultz wrote an open letter to Starbuckscustomers, asking them voluntarily to stop bringing theirfirearms into its stores. The company's long-standing policy hadbeen to default to local gun laws, including "open carry"regulations that allow licensed gun owners to wear their weaponsin public. Schultz's call followed a series of mass shootingsacross the country that have fanned a fractious national debateover gun rights.

The deeply polarized U.S. Congress on Monday appeared nocloser to finding a political solution to end the governmentshutdown than when it began last Tuesday, raising concerns aboutthe economic consequences of a prolonged stalemate.

"I don't pretend that both parties are equally to blame forthis crisis. But I do think they are equally responsible forleading us to a solution," Schultz said in the letter.

Schultz, a registered Democrat, has not donated to politicalcampaigns since he called for the contribution boycott two yearsago, a Starbucks spokesman said.

"We have to do what we can to mitigate and avoid theunintended consequences that the current political direction isleading the country and world toward," Schultz wrote.

Schultz's letter follows an unsuccessful attempt inSeptember by U.S. executives who belong to a group called "Fixthe Debt" to persuade lawmakers to avert another standoff and toraise the U.S. borrowing limit.

Starbucks, which has nearly 7,000 company-operated U.S.stores, is planning "actions" to galvanize its large base ofcustomers, the letter said without being more specific.

Late last December, the company used its ubiquitous coffeecups to urge Washington politicians to "come together" and finda deal to avoid going over a "fiscal cliff" of automatic taxhikes and government spending cuts.

Workers wrote the words "come together" on the cups theyserved to customers, aiming to push President Barack Obama andfederal lawmakers to revive budget and tax negotiations thatcollapsed before the holiday recess.

Starbucks backed the initiative with national "ComeTogether" ads in The Washington Post and The New York Times. Itsaid millions of cups were signed as part of the action.

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