Starbucks uses coffee cup messages to push for ‘fiscal cliff’ deal

<i>This post has been corrected. See the note below for details.</i>

WASHINGTON -- When Obama administration officials and congressional lawmakers take a break from their wrangling over the “fiscal cliff” to grab some Starbucks coffee, they’ll get a message right on their cup imploring them to strike a deal.

Employees in Starbucks Corp.'s Washington stores will write “Come Together” on customers’ cups in hopes of pushing policymakers to avoid the tax increases and federal spending cuts coming on Tuesday.


“Rather than be bystanders, we have an opportunity -- and I believe a responsibility -- to use our company’s scale for good by sending a respectful and optimistic message to our elected officials to come together and reach common ground on this important issue,” Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz said on the company’s blog Wednesday.

“It’s a small gesture, but the power of small gestures is what Starbucks is about!” Schultz wrote. “Imagine the power of our partners and hundreds of thousands of customers each sharing such a simple message, one cup at a time.”

The campaign, which is set to run Wednesday through Friday, is the first time the company has asked its employees to write a specific message on customers’ cups, he said.

“We’re paying attention; we’re greatly disappointed in what’s going on and we deserve better,” Schultz said in an interview with Reuters. “If [talks] do not progress, we will make this much bigger.”

Schultz is one of several high-profile chief executives who are urging the White House and congressional leaders to make a deficit-reduction deal that would avoid the fiscal cliff. Most economists say the automatic tax increases and spending cuts would push the U.S. into another recession in the first half of next year.

The White House said President Obama would fly back to Washington on Wednesday night to work on a deal, leaving his family’s holiday vacation in Hawaii.

Senators are to be back in Washington on Thursday after their holiday break. While the House will have a pro forma session Thursday, most members will not return this week unless there is new fiscal cliff legislation to consider.

[For the Record, 11:18 a.m. Dec. 26: An earlier version of this post said House and Senate lawmakers would be back in Washington on Thursday after their holiday breaks. The House will be in a pro forma session, but most members are not scheduled to return to Washington. House Speaker John Boehner has said he would give members 48-hour notice if they need to return to vote on fiscal cliff legislation.]

Schultz said the company plans to push the “Come Together” message via social media, online and print advertisements.

It isn’t the first time he’s injected himself into Washington politics.

After the rancorous debate over raising the nation’s debt limit in mid-2011, Schultz urged business leaders to withhold political contributions until Obama and Congress could “deliver a fiscally disciplined long-term debt and deficit plan to the American people.”

Schultz made no federal political contributions after that point, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. He had made $25,600 in contributions from 2007 until mid-2011, including $4,600 to Obama’s first presidential campaign.


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