Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has never shied away from supporting causes he believes in. But he has really gone on the offensive with his latest passions: political gridlock and the jobs crisis.
On Aug. 15, in a widely-publicized letter sent to the CEOs of companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange and NASDAQ, Schultz deplored the partisan gridlock in Washington, and urged his fellow business leaders to join with him and sign a pledge to halt all political donations to the President and members of Congress until they strike a “fair, bipartisan deal” that puts the nation on “stronger long-term fiscal footing.”
To date, the heads of over 100 companies have signed the pledge. Some of the executives on board include J. Crew Group’s Millard “Mickey” Drexler, Gilt Group’s Kevin Ryan, J.C. Penney’s Myron Ullman, and Pinkberry’s Ron Graves, according to CNNMoney.
Schultz is not without his critics -- many complained that his initiative did not go far enough in that it addressed only individual donations, not corporate donations. They argued that his quest would have a wider impact -- and be far more effective -- had he addressed members of corporate boards of directors. I’ll let campaign financing pundits pass judgment on that one.
But Schultz’s letter wasn’t just about fighting partisan acrimony. He also painted a chilling picture of an economy where fear and uncertainty have made businesses unwilling to invest and afraid to hire. And he was dead on in his assessment.
“Record levels of cash are piling up in corporate treasuries, idling,” Schultz wrote. “That cash is not being used to expand operations, train new workers, underwrite new ventures, or spark innovation.”
Schultz asked business leaders to take a second pledge: to start hiring and accelerate job creation. He urged employers to grow their companies and not wait for government to create a incentive program or a stimulus, or for economic indicators to improve.
“The only way to get the country’s economic circulatory system flowing again is to start pumping lifeblood through it,” he wrote. “Confidence is contagious. The best thing we can do now is to spread it.”
Schultz has put his money where his pen is. From January through August of this year, Starbucks has hired some 36,000 new employees in the United States and Canada, 15% more than in the same period a year ago.
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