Starbucks CEO Invites 'Concerned Citizens' to a National Town Hall

Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz Town HallPolitical gridlock and a struggling economy have vaulted to the top of U.S. citizens' priorities. Now, Starbucks (SBUX) CEO Howard Schultz has grand plans to cut through the noise and remind our country's politicians of their problem-solving duties.

On Tuesday, Schultz is hosting a gigantic, public telephone town hall at 7:30 p.m. (EST). He is reaching out to "concerned Americans" to join his movement and participate in the gigantic call-in discussion. Details about the town hall, which will also be viewable online, are available here.

The (Star)buck Stops Here

Schultz's public powwow follows another recent campaign to hit politicians right where it mattered: the wallet. Schultz publicly encouraged fellow corporate leaders to turn off the corporate political contribution spigot until politicians start solving problems.

At the time, it seemed questionable that many corporate leaders would publicly take a stand on such an issue. As it turns out, a number of high-profile, respected individuals in the corporate community have signed on to Schultz's pledge, including individuals affiliated with well-known companies such as AOL (AOL), J. Crew, Zipcar (ZIP), PepsiCo (PEP), Whole Foods (WFM), and the NYSE and Nasdaq stock exchanges.

Schultz is further galvanizing his push by running ads in The New York Times and USA Today. He has also formed the group Upward Spiral, accessible online and through social media sites like Facebook. Upward Spiral's site includes a Pledge to Withhold campaign contributions ("I believe this is a time for citizenship, not partisanship"), and a Pledge to Hire ("We want to set in motion an upward spiral of confidence in our country and its economy.").

Takin' It to the Streets

According to the Associated Press, Schultz's desire to take it to the streets, so to speak, relates to the outpouring of feedback he received in emails and letters from ordinary Americans who are struggling amid the current grim economy. "It looks like we struck a nerve with so many people," Schultz said. "I feel a personal responsibility to create a public dialogue and make a voice for people who feel like they can't be heard."

Perhaps corporations' CEOs have little business interfering in politics. On the other hand, Howard Schultz is illustrating what real leaders do: They listen to the stories and situations that ordinary people share, and try to make a real difference for a better world.

Starbucks' shareholders should be proud of such bold and noble intent. It takes guts to really try to make a difference, especially in such contentious and troubled times.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax owns shares of Starbucks and Whole Foods. The Motley Fool owns shares of Zipcar, Starbucks, Whole Foods, and PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Starbucks, Whole Foods, PepsiCo, NYSE Euronext, and Zipcar, as well as creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo.

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To Tolerant Voice: Superb post. Your message should be widely circulated. Our economic problems were not caused by Big Government, or by left-wing economics, or by right-wing economics. They were and are caused by capitalism behaving as it has always behaved: seeking out lower costs, no matter what the consequences. Remember slavery? Capitalism in action. One can point the finger of blame at G. W. Bush for getting us into a completely unnecessary war while at the same time lowering taxes on the rich (what immorality!); one can rail at Obama for implementing policies that help only minimally or temporarily (at least he is trying!), but no policies and no ideology will make this country whole again. Remedies such as Tolerant Voice proposes might help, but where is the leader who would promote them?

September 06 2011 at 10:19 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Tolerant Voice

Sorry about below, some is redundant.

September 06 2011 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tolerant Voice

Sorry about below, some is redundant

September 06 2011 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tolerant Voice

Why tax cuts, stimulus programs, US worker education and technology will not revive the US Economy.
Tax cuts for corporations only put more money in their pockets that they will invest in offshore production. There is no amount of tax cuts or US worker education that will make up for $14.00 for a twelve hour day in China or 50 cent an hour wages in Indonesia.
Tax cuts for individuals and stimulus programs put money in the hands of individuals that can only be spent for buying offshore products. Why is this so? It is so because retail stores in the US do not sell made in US products. Almost all hard goods for sale in retail stores are made in offshore countries. The amount, if any, of US goods in retail stores is negligible.
The technology argument is a psychic out. Any new technology will be made by big Multinational Corporations. They will simply apply any new technology to offshore facilities and pay as little as 50 cents an hour for labor.
The only remedy is to have products SOLD in the US be made with the same laws as products MADE in the US must endure. Offshore producers should pay the Federal Minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, plus SS & Medicare co-pays (for the offshore workers retirement), plus workers comp (escrow money for offshore workers who get hurt on the job) plus environmental and safety costs (to keep the world clean and workers safe), and abide by US child labor laws. This requirement will make US competitive again.
One sure remedy is to have congress repeal all tariffs they have placed on US manufactured products. Another sure remedy is to have congress bar from sale in the US, any product made offshore that is not made with the same tariffs as imposed on US producers. Some of these US tariffs are: a minimum wage of $7.25/hr, environmental and safety laws, workers comp costs, SS and Medicare co-pays and child labor laws.

September 06 2011 at 9:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Tolerant Voice's comment

Gee, maybe we should default on our debt to China.We'll just give Hu Jintao the keys to the White House and lets him run things here like he wants to. Maybe he'll treat the American people as well as he treats his own. Your thoughts?

September 07 2011 at 9:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Howard Schultz for President

September 06 2011 at 8:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Appreciate the presumed intention. The vast sums of money in politics has ruined our democracy. But I have to ask if this isn't just appealing to moderates and liberals. Until I see names of big oil, healthcare/pharma, and banks on the list, I have to believe the answer is yes and leads to an harmful unintended consequences.

September 06 2011 at 4:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply