“Please join us in doing what you—and your companies—can to give the American people the voice they currently lack, and are desperately crying out for,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz wrote in a letter posted on the company’s website. “And in the process, you can help to restore faith and trust in our government through your civil words and deeds.”
By mid-morning Friday, more than 200,000 people had signed on, Schultz said during an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”
Within the past 48 hours, Schultz has spoken with more than half of the CEOs of companies listed on the Dow 30, he said. They all were consistently disgusted with the situation, he added.
“I’m saying enough is enough,” Schultz said.
The petition comes as Americans’ frustration with Washington politicians is high. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 60 percent of Americans would opt to throw out every member of Congress at once if possible.
The Starbucks petition states: “To our leaders in Washington, D.C., now’s the time to come together to: 1. Reopen our government to serve the people. 2. Pay our debts on time to avoid another financial crisis. 3. Pass a bipartisan and comprehensive long-term budget deal by the end of the year.”
Starbucks is urging like-minded individuals to sign the petition online or to bring it into a Starbucks. They can also sign up for email or text updates, share them on social media and download a badge for their social sites. By Friday morning, the Starbucks post on Facebook had more than 70,000 likes.
Earlier this week, the Seattle-based coffee chain started with a soft-sell campaign, urging customers to “pay it forward” by buying a coffee for another customer. Starting Friday, the company added to those efforts by stocking its stores with petitions, asking politicians to wake up to the people’s wishes.
“I think Starbucks has a lot of guts to be the first ones to get involved,” said John McCourt, a graduate student at New York University, who is documenting his quest to visit every one of the coffee chain’s outlets in Manhattan. On Friday morning, he had already signed the petition and bought coffee for another person at an Upper East Side Starbucks.
“I think the petition is an evolution of the pay-it-forward. The pay-it-forward was asking people to be nicer to each other, to be more civil to each other. Three days later, nothing happened, so now we have the petition,” McCourt said.
Although mixing politics with business can have negative repercussions for some companies, this campaign is right in line with Starbucks brand and identity, said Darren Tristano, the executive vice president at Technomic, a food industry research and consulting firm.
“It really fits in with the Starbucks philosophy. They’ve always done things with a strong corporate responsibility,” Tristano told CNBC.
Schultz has weighed in on high-profile political issues before, including a plea for Starbucks customers to leave their guns at home and a 2011 call for people to stop making political contributions until lawmakers reached a deal on the U.S. debt and spending.
“In my mind it’s also a promotion for the brand,” Tristano said. “I think what it’s showing is this brand cares enough to help other people. Why can’t the government work harder to help out citizens?”