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Starbucks plans to hire 10,000 refugees

CEO Howard Schultz pledges support for refugees, undocumented immigrants and the uninsured

Starbucks Corp. founder, chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said Sunday that the company plans to hire 10,000 refugees around the world, in a letter rebuking actions by President Donald Trump’s administration regarding immigration and healthcare.

Schultz, who will step down from the CEO role later this year, released the letter on a day in which protests involving tens of thousands of Americans erupted nationwide over President Trump’s ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

“We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American dream, being called into question,” Schultz wrote in a letter to employees. 

Schultz said Starbucks “will neither stand by, nor stand silent, as the uncertainty around the new administration’s actions grows with each passing day.”

Starbucks is developing plans to hire 10,000 refugees in 75 countries around the world, he said, and the company will start in the U.S. by initially focusing on hiring people who served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel.

“We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world,” Schultz said. 

The letter included other efforts Starbucks is making for employees and its Mexico market to counter the new administration.

Schultz declared support for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in which individuals who came to the U.S. as children and who meet several guidelines could have deportation deferred for two years.

More than 750,000 undocumented immigrants have had deportations deferred through DACA, also known as the “Dreamers” program, since 2012. Schultz declared his support for the program in an earlier letter to U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. The future of DACA is uncertain under Trump’s administration. 

Starbucks offers reimbursement for the fee DACA immigrants must pay to remain in the program.

“We want them to feel welcome and included in our success,” Schultz wrote.

Schultz’s letter highlighted Starbucks’ work in Mexico, where the chain has 600 locations, and where it sources some of its coffee. Last fall, Starbucks announced the creation of a farmer support center in Chiapas and donated more than $2 million to support coffee-producing communities in Oaxaca.

“We stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans,” Schultz wrote.

He also said Starbucks workers who are eligible “will always have access to health insurance at Starbucks.”

Workers who lose coverage under the Affordable Care Act can return to the company’s plan within 30 days of losing coverage, rather than wait for an open enrollment period, Schultz said. The Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have vowed to repeal the act.

Schultz’s letter is unlikely to calm speculation that he is eyeing a bid for the presidency in 2020. It also inspired at least some pushback from conservatives, who vowed to either sell the company’s stock or stop buying Starbucks coffee. Schultz didn’t seem concerned about such a reaction.

“In the face of recent events around the world, let me assure you that we will stay true to our values and do everything we possibly can do to support and invest in every partner’s well-being while taking the actions that are squarely in our control,” he wrote.

He also urged Starbucks workers to get active politically, without alienating the chain’s customers. 

“We are all obligated to ensure our elected officials hear from us individually and collectively,” Schultz wrote. “Starbucks is doing its part; we need you to use the collective power of your voices to do the same while respecting the diverse viewpoints of the 90 million customers who visit our stores in more than 25,000 locations around the world.” 

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

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