* Workers asked to write "come together" on customers' cups
* CEO Schultz says "greatly disappointed" with cliff talks
* He says campaign will be ramped up if no deal is reached
* Schultz endorses Campaign to Fix the Debt
By Lisa Baertlein
Dec 26 Starbucks Corp will use its
ubiquitous coffee cups to tell U.S. lawmakers to come up with a
deal to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax
hikes and government spending cuts.
Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in
Starbucks' roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write "come
together" on customers' cups on Thursday and Friday, as
President Barack Obama and lawmakers return to work and attempt
to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the
Whether members of Congress actually drink in the message is
another matter. While the concentration of Starbucks cafes is
high in the vicinity of the White House, it's relatively low
near the U.S. Capitol. Members of the House and Senate enjoy
private dining facilities and many of their offices have coffee
Starbucks' cup campaign aims to send a message to sharply
divided politicians and serve as a rallying cry for the public
in the days leading up to the Jan. 1 deadline to avert harsh
across-the-board government spending reductions and tax
increases that could send the United States back into recession.
"We're paying attention, we're greatly disappointed in
what's going on and we deserve better," Schultz told Reuters in
a telephone interview.
The CEO said he has joined a growing list of high-powered
business leaders, politicians and financial experts in endorsing
the Campaign to Fix the Debt, (www.fixthedebt.org) a well-funded
non-partisan group that is leaning on lawmakers to put the
United States' financial house in order.
Starbucks plans to amplify its "come together" message via
new and old media, including Twitter and Facebook posts,
coverage on AOL's local news websites and advertisements in The
Washington Post and The New York Times.
"If (the talks) do not progress, we will make this much
bigger," Schultz said of the messaging campaign, which he said
is voluntary for cafe employees.
Given the number of Starbucks cafes in the Washington area
and the number of workers on Capitol Hill, "I wouldn't be
surprised if a cup of 'come together' finds its way into the
White House and into the speaker's house," Schultz said in
reference to Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner,
who are at the center of the fiscal cliff talks.
'LACK OF LEADERSHIP'
"Our political system is not functioning in a way that is
representative of what the country needs," he said. "This is the
one time where politics should be put aside and what we're
witness to is the exact opposite."
Schultz recently led the world's biggest coffee chain
through a painful but successful restructuring that returned it
to growth. He is no stranger to using Starbucks as a platform to
advocate for an end to the political stalemate in Washington.
During the debt ceiling debate in August 2011, he made a
splash by calling for a boycott of political contributions to
U.S. lawmakers until they struck a fair and bipartisan deal on
the country's debt, revenue and spending.
"We are facing such dysfunction, irresponsibility and lack
of leadership" less than two years after the debt ceiling
crisis, Schultz said.
Washington narrowly avoided a U.S. government default, but
not before down-to-the-wire wrangling prompted the country's
first-ever debt rating downgrade.
"There is something so wrong that we can be here again and
not have the ability to put party aside for the betterment of
the country," said Schultz. "We have the same language and
rhetoric. Unfortunately we aren't learning much."