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Starbucks CEO nudges employees, customers to the polls in new initiative

Julia La Roche
·3 mins read

Starbucks (SBUX) is taking a “major step forward” to ensure none of its 200,000 U.S. employees have to choose between working a shift or voting on or before Election Day, according to CEO Kevin Johnson.

Ahead of what is already shaping up to be a polarizing and hard-fought election, Johnson issued a call to Starbucks employees — known internally as “partners” to get out and vote.

“The upcoming election is a reminder that we, as citizens, play an active role in our society by simply getting involved and voting. Who you vote for is a very personal decision that you make as a citizen,” the CEO wrote.

“It is one way for you to be heard. It is how democracy works. Yet we know that barriers exist, notably in Black and Brown communities throughout the nation, that lend to systemic racism and require greater voter access and protections,” he added.

The move is part of Starbucks’ push to “promote civil rights—for partners, for customers, and for the communities we serve,” Johnson wrote.

In the letter, Johnson shared that Starbucks will provide its partners with “the tools and the time necessary to register and cast” their votes — including providing nonpartisan sources of information on how to register to vote, how to find a polling place, and/or how to request a mail-in ballot.

The coffee company is also working with Civic Alliance to encourage its employees to volunteer with their local election authority as nonpartisan poll workers. The move comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is diminishing prospects of in-person ballot casting around the country.

“Every aspect of our communities is impacted by COVID-19, and that includes election operations. We encourage leaders at all levels of government to work to ensure that members of their communities have a safe way to vote,” Johnson said.

“Making necessary adjustments to ensure polling places and ballot drop boxes are safe and accessible for all and polling places are appropriately staffed is critical,” he added.

‘We will make change on our own’

Next month, Starbucks will feature the National Voter Registration and share information with its customers on its popular mobile app, such as registering to vote and where to vote within their communities.

The intention “is to try to create a better cadence of building on the work that we’ve done over the years to make sure that people are always thinking about how they can get involved in their commutes year-round,” Zulima Espinel, Starbucks’ vice president of global public policy, told Yahoo Finance in a phone interview.

In the closing, Johnson wrote that “voting, while essential, is just one step toward addressing many of the issues in front of us as a society."

He added that the company will share more commitments “to further racial equity, justice and opportunity” in the coming weeks and months — including its hiring practices and partnerships.

“The bottom line being: Starbucks will not wait for change, we will make change of our own,” Johnson added.

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on