December 14, 2017

Free-Market Criticism of Starbucks CEO’s Liberal Agenda Brewing for Annual Investor Meeting

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

Activists Ready for Third Appearance at a Starbucks Shareholder Meeting  

Business Insider Reports Starbucks’ “Brand Has Taken a Beating” After Coffeehouse Giant Challenges Trump Agenda

Seattle, WA/Washington, D.C. – Trouble is brewing at Starbucks, and the nation’s leading proponent of free-market investor activism is set to question Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on March 22 about how the political agenda influencing how the coffeehouse giant operates is reportedly hurting the brand and harming shareholders’ investments.
The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Starbucks shareholder, is sending the director of its Free Enterprise Project (FEP) to the annual Starbucks investor meeting to raise concerns about how liberal political stances and attacks on President Donald Trump could be damaging the company’s reputation and sales.  The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 22 at 10 a.m. Pacific at the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle, Washington.  This will be the third time a National Center representative has attended a Starbucks shareholder meeting.

“Coffee has no political allegiance, but Starbucks under Schultz’s leadership has been unwavering in its support of liberal causes to the detriment of its brand and shareholder value,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who plans to attend Wednesday’s meeting and has questioned Schultz at previous shareholder meetings.  “As Schultz is set to retire next month, it remains to be seen if his successor will work to unite Americans and make Starbucks more inviting to conservative and libertarian consumers, or if the company’s new leadership will continue Schultz’s divisive politicking.”

At the meeting, Danhof plans to address how Starbucks has taken many controversial policy positions under Schultz’s leadership that are reportedly hurting the company’s image and profits.  For example, in 2013, in response to a concern about a Starbucks boycott related to the company’s support of same-sex marriage, Schultz said the company wanted to “embrace diversity” and invited the investor raising the issue to sell his shares.  The company was also criticized for its “Race Together Initiative” that sought to engage customers in discussions with Starbucks employees about race relations as well as for its refusal to acknowledge Christmas on its holiday cups.  Most recently, Business Insider reports “Starbucks’ brand has taken a beating” due to Schultz’s criticism of President Trump’s initial executive order on immigration and for plans to hire 10,000 refugees.

On March 22, the National Center will post the text of its prepared question for the Starbucks CEO prominently on the National Center website when the shareholder meeting starts (which can be accessed here after posting).  Any comments from the Free Enterprise Project after the meeting will be also be available on the site (directly accessible here) within hours of the conclusion of the meeting.

At the 2016 Starbucks meeting, the National Center presented a shareholder proposalasking the company to protect its employees from penalties at work stemming from their private, legal political activities.  Opposed by Starbucks, but accepted by other major corporations, the National Center’s “Employee Conscience Protection Project” led to policies safeguarding the personal political activities and beliefs of over five million employees at 13 major U.S. companies including Walmart, Pepsi, Visa, General Electric, Home Depot and more.

In 2014, Schultz was commended by the National Center during the shareholder meeting for not bowing to the anti-science demands of radical environmental activists who were seeking to force Starbucks to purge its products of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group – focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business.  Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues.  The Starbucks meeting will mark FEP’s fourth shareholder meeting so far in 2017.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project activism has yielded a tremendous return on investment:

  • FEP’s highly-publicized questioning of support for the Clinton Foundation by Boeing and General Electric helped trigger an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation’s activities that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • FEP inquiries prompted Facebook to address political bias against conservatives in social media.
  •  Company executives acknowledged media bias at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) in response to FEP’s challenges, which helped to bring about more objective reporting and more balanced political representation.
  • FEP’s “Employee Conscience Protection Project” strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations.
In 2016, the Free Enterprise Project was featured in the Washington Post, theWashington Times, the Fox News Channel’s “Cavuto,” the Drudge Report, the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times,Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the Quad City Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune among many others.  The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kimberley Strassel’s 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank.  Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations.  It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.  Sign up for email updates here.  Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements.  To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at@NCPPRMedia.

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Starbucks Shareholders Asked to Support Employee Protections

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

Starbucks Investors Vote on Employee Protection Shareholder Proposal

Human Rights Proposal Intended to Protect Company Workers Who Engage in Political and Civic Activities, Among Other Human Rights Concerns

 

Seattle, WA / Washington, D.C.  – At today’s annual meeting of Starbucks shareholders in Seattle, Washington, Justin Danhof, Esq., representing the National Center for Public Policy Research presented a stockholder resolution designed in part to protect the coffee company’s workers from potential discrimination stemming from their private, legal political activities.

“Today, we made an important step in ensuring that all Starbucks employees are free to engage in political and civic activities without fear of retribution in the workplace,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof. “Many regions with Starbucks employees lack legal protection for a worker that is terminated for his political activities. Rather than seeking a government solution to the problem, we hope that Starbucks’ leadership will voluntarily address this issue. That is why we filed our resolution.”

The effort is part of the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project, which, among other activities promoting human rights, has so far convinced 13 major corporations employing over 5 million workers to agree not to penalize or fire employees based on their legal political or civic activities undertaken in their free time.

Although Starbucks’ management has so far declined to adopt the National Center’s initiative, other corporations, including Walmart, GE, Pfizer, Merck, Visa, PepsiCo, Home Depot and other major companies have adopted the protections after being approached by the National Center.

In presenting the proposal, Danhof stated:

Free speech and free association are under increasing attack. Some politicians want to regulate speech by broadcast journalists. Colleges are erecting “free speech zones” that – despite the name – limit speech, and now this trend has entered the corporate arena.

It’s not hard to envision a scenario in which a conservative or libertarian Starbucks employee feels ostracized to the point of reducing her or his political and civic activity. The company has a reputation of being left-leaning. CEO Howard Schultz is a prominent liberal who many on the left hope will run for president. If a conservative employee’s direct superior is also politically left-leaning, she or he might feel compelled to squash her or his political activities. Now, to be clear, the current culture is predominately anti-conservative, but our proposal would also protect liberal employees from potential discrimination.

The National Center’s proposal is on page 55 of Starbucks’ proxy statement, which is available for download here.

At press time, the final vote tally on the proposal was unavailable.

“I am delighted that our proposal was brought to the attention of many thousands of Starbucks investors and the business press,” added Danhof. “I look forward to having a continued dialogue with Starbucks management as we work to address this important issue.”

Danhof is available for comments about the shareholder meeting.

Yesterday, the National Center issued a press release announcing the proposal. It is available here.

The genesis for the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project occurred in April 2014 when the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was forced out of his job simply because he had donated to a 2008 California referendum that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Unfortunately, Mr. Eich is not uniquely situated. Only about half of American workers live in a jurisdiction that provides statutory protection against employer retaliation for engaging in First Amendment activities. And some of these laws are weaker than others. Furthermore, many corporations do not offer this protection as a condition of employment.

Announced just a year ago, the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project has already protected more than five million American workers from potential political discrimination. The project has also received significant media attention, including coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle, Politico and the Daily Caller. Danhof also appeared multiple times as a featured guest on One America News Network’s “The Rick Amato Show” to discuss various aspects of the project (here and here).

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. Tomorrow’s Starbucks meeting marks its fourth shareholder meeting of 2016.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.

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Group Asks Starbucks Not to Fire Employees Based on Political Views; Activities

Press Release from the National Center for Public Policy Research:

Free Enterprise Advocate Urges Starbucks Investors to Support Resolution Designed to Protect Employees Who Engage in Political and Civic Activities

National Center for Public Policy Research to Discuss Concerns About Corporate Efforts to Stifle Freedom of Speech and Association at Annual Meeting of Starbucks Shareholders

Free Enterprise Project’s Efforts Have So Far Extended Workplace Protections to More than Five Million Americans

 

Seattle, WA / Washington, D.C.  – Ahead of tomorrow’s annual meeting of Starbucks shareholders in Seattle, Washington, the National Center for Public Policy Research is promoting its Employee Conscience Protection Project shareholder resolution aimed at protecting the beverage giant’s employees from potential discrimination stemming from political activities.

“In America today, many Americans are at risk of losing their job or being demoted for their private political beliefs and actions. We have seen this totalitarian mindset creep into the corporate arena, where CEOs and hourly employees alike have been dismissed specifically because of their conservative political positions,” said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. “Our proposal would protect all Starbucks employees from any such adverse employment action. Whether liberal, conservative, libertarian or green, no employee of a publicly-held company should fear for his or her job because of legal, private civic or political activity.”

The National Center’s proposal is on page 55 of Starbucks’ proxy statement, which is available for download here.

“With support from the company’s investors tomorrow, I am confident that Starbucks’ management will join with so many other industry leaders in adopting our proposal,” added Danhof. “Civic and political engagement has reached anemic levels in America. If employers make it clear that no employee’s job is at risk because of that individual’s private political beliefs and activities, perhaps more people will engage with their political leaders and communities. We think that is a good thing.”

The genesis for the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project occurred in April 2014 when the CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich, was forced out of his job simply because he had donated to a 2008 California referendum that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Unfortunately, Mr. Eich is not uniquely situated. Only about half of American workers live in a jurisdiction that provides statutory protection against employer retaliation for engaging in First Amendment activities. And some of these laws are weaker than others. Furthermore, many corporations do not offer this protection as a condition of employment.

Announced just a year ago, the National Center’s Employee Conscience Protection Project has already protected more than five million American workers from potential political discrimination. The project has also received significant media attention, including coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle, Politico and the Daily Caller. Danhof also appeared multiple times as a featured guest on One America News Network’s “The Rick Amato Show” to discuss various aspects of the project (here and here).

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. In 2014-15, National Center representatives participated in 69 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. Tomorrow’s Starbucks meeting marks its fourth shareholder meeting of 2016.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Sign up for free issue alerts here or follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter.

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Starbucks Applauded for Standing Firm in Defense of GMOs

Free-Market Activist Group Urges International Coffee Giant to Reject Doing Business with Suppliers Working With Activists Opposing Company and Humanitarian Interests

Seattle, WA/Washington DC – At the annual meeting of Starbucks shareholders in Seattle Wednesday, the National Center for Public Policy Research applauded Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz for standing firm against un-scientific, inhumane anti-GMO activists and requested that the coffee giant cleanse its supply chain of corporations that work with activists against Starbucks interests.

“While Starbucks executives fell short of promising to purge its supply chain of companies that are working hand-in-glove with anti-GMO activists pressuring Starbucks, if I were in the leadership of one of these companies, I would certainly reconsider our corporate stance,” said the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project Director, Justin Danhof, Esq.

At the meeting, Danhof asked Schultz, in part:

Just this month a coalition of activists working with various companies launched a campaign to force this Company to serve ONLY milk produced from cows that are not fed GMOs, without regard to the views of our Company’s customers or the fact that this Company already offers dairy milk free of bovine growth hormones and an organic soy milk alternative.

Some of the companies that are now working with those who are engaged in pressuring this Company to reject GMOs sell organic milk, coffee beans, paper supplies and other products that this company uses. Can we, the shareholders, be confident that this firm will avoid buying products from firms that are working with activists to pressure this company to work against sound science, against its interests, against the very real environmental benefits of GMOs and against the health interests of little children overseas?

Some of the companies engaged with Green America, the group pushing Starbucks to ban milk from cows that have eaten GMO crops, include Organic Valley, Larry’s Beans and Seventh Generation.

“The Starbucks executives are well versed in the GMO issue, and have sided with common sense,” said Danhof. “Earlier, when a MoveOn.org website petition threatened the company with a boycott unless it donated to a GMO labeling initiative in Washington, the company did not back down. For that, Starbucks deserves a lot of credit.”

Last week, Scientific American reported that the delayed application of Vitamin A-enhanced Golden Rice thanks to controversies stirred by anti-GMO activists had cost over 1.4 million life years in India alone since 2002.

A magazine commentary further explained that “[t]he majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children. These are real deaths, real disability, real suffering, not the phantom fears about the human health effects of Golden Rice thrown around by opponents, none of which have held up to objective scientific scrutiny.”

“Anti-GMO activists have so demonized this wonderful technology that people are afraid to make use of it, even to save lives,” said Amy Ridenour , chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “As Scientific American reported, the company that figured out how to insert a gene from carrots into rice to allow rice to develop Vitamin A turned over all the financial interests from its discovery to a non-profit. It didn’t want people’s opposition to profit-making to get in the way of a lifesaving and sight-saving crop. But people still aren’t being saved because relatively wealthy American and European anti-GMO activists who have plenty of Vitamin A in their diets have frightened people in the Third World away from planting this rice. And who suffers the most? Children.”

“Starbucks has a reputation as a liberal company and we are a conservative group,” added Ridenour, “but we commend Starbucks. It is right to stand up to these hard-hearted activists and stick with the science and the potential of GMOs. While Third World lives are not directly saved specifically by the type of milk served at Starbucks stores, many may be saved if leading companies such as Starbucks stick to their guns and the world, noting this, comes to realize that GMOs, if we let them, can save many lives. Companies such as Starbucks are very influential.”

A video recording of the entire exchange between Justin Danhof, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz and Starbucks CFO Troy Alstead is on YouTube here, the question as prepared for delivery is here and a transcript of the Starbucks executives’ responses is here.

In January, Danhof attended the annual meeting of Monsanto shareholders on behalf of the National Center and spoke out against a shareholder proposal that tried to force that company to support mandatory GMO labeling.

In his remarks there, Danhof noted that:

GMOs are mainstream agriculture. GMOs feed people more efficiently. GMO crops are more environment-friendly than conventional crops. Numerous scientific bodies have determined that GMO foods are safe, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, the Royal Society of Medicine and the World Health Organization.

Literally hundreds of studies have confirmed that GMOs are safe… GMO foods are a great gift to mankind. They lower food costs, allow farmers to produce food in a more sustainable way, and, as Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have pointed out, show great promise for ending world hunger and malnutrition.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a Starbucks shareholder.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is a leading free-market corporate activist program. In 2013, Free Enterprise Project representatives attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many more important public policy issues. Today’s Starbucks meeting was the National Center’s fifth attendance at a shareholder meeting so far in 2014.

In less than three months in 2014, the Free Enterprise Project’s work has garnered over 1,000 media citations and has been covered by the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, the Fox Business Network, Rush Limbaugh, Business Insider, the Washington Times, the Guardian, the Daily Caller, MSNBC, the Daily Mail and many hundreds more.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.

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Avoiding Root Causes of Gun Violence

gunandscalesofjusticeI read with interest yesterday Paul Mirengoff’s article at the Powerline Blog. Mirengoff’s is the first article I’ve seen that even comes close to addressing the root causes of what leads to gun violence or violence in general. He calls it the war on standards.

His argument is that in the case of Aaron Alexis, the latest fruitcake to murder masses of people, a failure of the criminal justice system may have been the root cause of Aaron Alexis ever making it into Building 197 of a Washington, D.C. Navy facility.

In 2004, Alexis blew out the tires of a car that supposedly belonged to someone that made him angry. It is my understanding that at the time this action was considered illegal in Seattle, where the event took place. However, everything appears to have been lost in the bureaucratic shuffle and Alexis was never charged and no record existed that would have showed up in a background check. Is this where it all began?

This is only one case of paperwork hindering and/or preventing “criminal justice.” I personally know of more than one case of “criminals” being allowed to “slip through the cracks” in order to cover up issues, do favors, or in carrying out some kind of plea deal. In one instance, a teacher was caught having an affair with a student. In a “deal”, the man was allowed to quit his job in return that the school department would not place the offense on his record. He soon got another job at a nearby school. Is this not another failure of the “criminal justice system?”

What would have changed in Washington, D.C. had Aaron Alexis’ record showed a past record of gun violence? Perhaps nothing, however, was his employers or even the U.S. Military given an accurate account of this person before he was given a job, a security clearance or allowed in a restricted area? Could he have bought a gun?

As a society we fail miserably when it comes to addressing the root causes of our problems. In the recent Washington, D.C. mass shootings, the debate immediately goes to banning guns and yet, few, if any, bring up the fact that it is virtually impossible, according to D.C. law, to own a gun there. If that law is so wonderful and is designed for public safety, as the lie goes, then isn’t this another case proving laws banning guns do nothing to deter mentally ill people, or those prone to violence or the common crook?

Recently, an unending push by the Obama Administration to restrict magazine sizes and toughen background checks, is argued to have zero affect on gun violence. If we had those “tougher background checks”, would Aaron Alexis have been prohibited from buying his shot gun? Remember, his act of gun violence in Seattle in 2004 went unreported and therefore would not and did not show up in his background check to buy the shotgun in Virginia two days before his murdering spree. Is the problem here the existence of guns?

Some would say so. They believe that if we could just ban all guns, this stuff would go away. Would it? Where’s the data that shows that? Data actually indicates the opposite. Shooting sprees occur in “gun free zones.” And how is our record in properly enforcing existing laws? Is there any corruption involved?

Let’s face it, guns bring out the most emotional and irrational conversations between pro and anti gun advocates. So long as this exists, there is never any hope that facts might get in the way of decision making.

I agree for the most part with Mirengoff that actions and reactions, combined with politics, special interests and basic overall corruption has sparked a war on standards. Standards could also be substituted with the word “morals.” But this has been going on for decades and yet as a society we bury our heads in the sand, never to address the root causes, always placating to the politically correct.

For example, today I learned that Starbucks is going to announce that guns are no longer welcome in their coffee stores. Why? Because too many people are showing up with guns and that is offending some of their customers. In addition, the owner says that he has to walk a fine line in order to placate all of his customers. In other words, he doesn’t want to drive business away because some people might be scared or offended by the sight of a gun and yet, he wants to appear sympathetic to gun rights and the Constitution. Is it possible to have it both ways?

The owner of Starbucks has every right to dictate, within the law, the rules of his establishments, however, if you will notice in this ABC News article, there is no mention that due to the increase in people showing up to their stores with more guns, that there hasn’t been any increase in gun violence or related problems.

Due to the assault on standards, it may be the root cause of why, after every mass shooting or horrific gun violent act, the cry seems only to go out for a ban on guns. We’ve not finished destroying that standard yet, evidently. If existing laws cannot be properly executed for reasons that might range from, inept paper shuffling to outright racism and corruption, what hope is there that even a background check would do any good?

The other rant that is taking place on all news media outlets has to do with mental illness and the demand that somehow if Aaron Alexis had been fingered as a psycho, none of this would have happened. I continue to ask the question, what is it that people want? From what I have been hearing on the news since this event is that anyone being treated for mental illness should be locked up. Really? Everyone? And if not everyone, then which ones? How many? Who gets to decide?

There are basic standards in which, if we did a better job of adhering to them, perhaps some of these tragic events could have been avoided. However, no system is perfect. No laws are ever going to stop this nonsense. Thinking that taking away liberties from normal people is going to solve this problem is irrational in nature and oppressive in turn, with no change toward a desired outcome to end or reduce gun violence.

Failure to address root causes is akin to never fixing a flat tire so long as adding air will get you where you need to go for now and thinking there would never be a blowout.

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