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Starbucks coffee chain petitions to end federal government impasse

| Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

NEW YORK — Starbucks, better known for its piping hot coffee, is throwing itself into the middle of another hot national debate.

The world's biggest coffee chain said on 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 at all 11,000 locations to sign beginning on Friday, calls for reopening the government, paying debts on time and passing a long-term budget deal by the end of the year.

Company 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. While big brands generally steer clear of politics to avoid alienating customers, Starbucks and its outspoken CEO in recent years have run toward the spotlight by trying to gain a voice in national political 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, 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.

And in 2011, Schultz asked other chief executives to join him in halting campaign contributions until politicians stopped their partisan bickering over the debt ceiling, which led to a downgrade in the country's credit rating. The CEOs of more than 100 companies, from AOL to Zipcar, took the pledge.

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