NEW YORK — Starbucks, better known for its piping-hot coffee, is throwing itself in the middle of yet another heated national debate.
The world’s biggest coffee chain said Thursday that it will ask customers and businesses to sign a petition calling for an end to the partial government shutdown that has forced hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job.
The petition, which will be available to sign Friday at all 11,000 Starbucks locations in the U.S., calls for reopening the government, paying debts on time and passing a long-term budget deal this year. In addition to Starbucks customers, outspoken CEO Howard Schultz is trying to get the CEOs of the nation’s largest companies to sign.
The move is unusual for a company like Starbucks. Big brands generally steer clear of politics to avoid alienating customers, but Starbucks and Schultz have run toward the spotlight in recent years by trying to gain a voice in national issues.
Because the company’s efforts are generally nonpartisan and unlikely to cause controversy, marketing and corporate-image experts say they burnish Starbucks’ reputation as a socially conscious company.
“It’s always risky when brands mix politics and business,” said Allen Adamson, managing director of the New York-based branding firm Landor Associates. “But the benefit for Starbucks likely outweighs the risk.”
Last month, Schultz asked customers not to bring guns into Starbucks stores. In December of last year, the chain asked its employees to write “Come together” on cups to send a message to lawmakers about the damage being caused by the divisive negotiations over the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax and spending cuts that was scheduled to become effective Dec. 31, 2012.
On Friday, Starbucks plans to post its petition to try to put an end to the partial government shutdown in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. It will also be in stores and available to print out.
“I believe that we will capture the voices of the American people,” Schultz said. “We want to send a powerful message to Washington.”