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Starbucks joins a corporate push to protect voting rights

The coffee giant is one of 166 companies calling on Congress to update the Voting Rights Act.
Starbucks voting rights
Photograph: Shutterstock

Starbucks has joined with 165 other companies and 11 business groups calling on Congress to update the Voting Rights Act, arguing that “impediments to exercising the right to vote persist in many states, especially for communities of color.”

In a message to employees on Wednesday, Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson said the decision to join the Business for Voting Rights Coalition “builds on our multi-year, non-partisan effort to encourage partners and customers to vote.”

“Throughout our history, Starbucks has been committed to ensuring that the voices of our partners have been heard,” Johnson said. “Protecting the right to vote for every eligible American, regardless of who they vote for, is core to the integrity of our democracy.”

The Seattle-based coffee giant is the only major restaurant chain to sign onto the letter urging Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act. But there are a handful of notable companies on the list, including the delivery provider DoorDash, Pepsico, the retailer Target, payment company Square and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s.

Voting rights has become a hot topic on Capitol Hill, since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Democrats were expected to introduce an update to the act. Some states have this year passed voting rights restrictions that advocates say disproportionately affects people of color.

Companies have been taking a stand on the topic—the Major League Baseball All Star Game was recently played in Denver this week. It was supposed to be played in Atlanta before the league moved the game in protest of Georgia’s new voting law.

Starbucks last year provided information and resources to employees and customers on voting and gave workers time off to vote. Johnson’s letter indicates the company would continue to provide those resources.

“Every election, whether it is for the president of the United States or your local mayor or city council member, is important,” Johnson wrote, noting that the company would continue to provide employees with resources on voting.

Johnson said the company would work with its managers so employees have a plan to vote on their schedule. It will also update information on StarbucksPartnersVote.com to enable employees to register and request a mail-in ballot. He also said the company would work on getting employees resources, including ride-share options, to get employees to their polling place.

“The struggle for civil rights and racial equity in America exists in every aspect of our society, and the democratic process is no exception,” Johnson said. “We believe that voting should be free of discrimination of any kind.”

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