Starbucks to Vote for Employees and Customers to Vote on Election Day

Starbucks said Thursday that it will ensure its baristas do not have to choose between working and voting as part of a non-partisan push to increase turnout on election day despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The coffee chain has long advocated for its employees and customers to exercise civic engagement and voice. In 2016, the company partnered with TurboVote on a tool that registers its baristas to vote and sends reminders. Eight years earlier, it was offering free high-end coffee to anyone who passed by on election day. (Election laws prohibit the chain from restricting promotion to only those who voted.)

But this year, the election is coming while the country is fighting the coronavirus. States across the country are making postal voting easier in an effort to keep Americans risking their lives on the ballot box.

“This is not about a particular election or a particular candidate. We recognize that with Covid’s influence, that can add complexity,” said Zulima Espinel, head of global public policy at Starbucks.

Espinel said the company’s efforts begin with talks between managers and its employees to ensure its nearly 200,000 workers have the tools and time to vote. The chain has created a portal for its baristas with tools to register and vote.

“It’s not about one particular method. It’s about ‘OK, this works best for my life. I know where I can go to get the resources I need,'” Espinel said.

The Starbucks mobile app will provide tools for customers to register to vote and confirm where and what method they should use to do so.

Other corporations are also encouraging their workers and customers to go to the polls on November 3rd. For example, the chain and pizza close their restaurants on election day and give employees paid time. And more than 700 companies, from Coca-Cola to Sweetgreen to Abercrombie & Fitch, have joined the non-partisan coalition Time to Vote and are committed to making it easier for their employees to vote, or that means they have a few hours paid free time or make it a working day free from meetings.

Espinel said Starbucks will continue to advocate for safe and accessible voices for everyone.

CEO Kevin Johnson said in a letter to baristas announcing the initiative that the company will share more in the coming weeks and months on its commitments to racial self-worth, fairness and opportunity, including more transparency on data on integration and inclusion.

“The bottom line is: Starbucks will not wait for change, we will make change of our own,” he wrote.