UPDATE 1-Starbucks to use cups for 'fiscal cliff' message to US lawmakers

Lisa Baertlein
Reuters Middle East

* Workers asked to write "come together" on customers' cups

* CEO Schultz says "greatly disappointed" with cliff talks

* He says campaign will be ramped up if no deal is reached

* Schultz endorses Campaign to Fix the Debt

Dec 26 (Reuters) - Starbucks Corp will use its

ubiquitous coffee cups to tell U.S. lawmakers to come up with a

deal to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax

hikes and government spending cuts.

Chief Executive Howard Schultz is urging workers in

Starbucks' roughly 120 Washington-area shops to write "come

together" on customers' cups on Thursday and Friday, as

President Barack Obama and lawmakers return to work and attempt

to revive fiscal cliff negotiations that collapsed before the

Christmas holiday.

Whether members of Congress actually drink in the message is

another matter. While the concentration of Starbucks cafes is

high in the vicinity of the White House, it's relatively low

near the U.S. Capitol. Members of the House and Senate enjoy

private dining facilities and many of their offices have coffee


Starbucks' cup campaign aims to send a message to sharply

divided politicians and serve as a rallying cry for the public

in the days leading up to the Jan. 1 deadline to avert harsh

across-the-board government spending reductions and tax

increases that could send the United States back into recession.

"We're paying attention, we're greatly disappointed in

what's going on and we deserve better," Schultz told Reuters in

a telephone interview.

The CEO said he has joined a growing list of high-powered

business leaders, politicians and financial experts in endorsing

the Campaign to Fix the Debt, (www.fixthedebt.org) a well-funded

non-partisan group that is leaning on lawmakers to put the

United States' financial house in order.

Starbucks plans to amplify its "come together" message via

new and old media, including Twitter and Facebook posts,

coverage on AOL's local news websites and advertisements in The

Washington Post and The New York Times.

"If (the talks) do not progress, we will make this much

bigger," Schultz said of the messaging campaign, which he said

is voluntary for cafe employees.

Given the number of Starbucks cafes in the Washington area

and the number of workers on Capitol Hill, "I wouldn't be

surprised if a cup of 'come together' finds its way into the

White House and into the speaker's house," Schultz said in

reference to Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner,

who are at the center of the fiscal cliff talks.


"Our political system is not functioning in a way that is

representative of what the country needs," he said. "This is the

one time where politics should be put aside and what we're

witness to is the exact opposite."

Schultz recently led the world's biggest coffee chain

through a painful but successful restructuring that returned it

to growth. He is no stranger to using Starbucks as a platform to

advocate for an end to the political stalemate in Washington.

During the debt ceiling debate in August 2011, he made a

splash by calling for a boycott of political contributions to

U.S. lawmakers until they struck a fair and bipartisan deal on

the country's debt, revenue and spending.

"We are facing such dysfunction, irresponsibility and lack

of leadership" less than two years after the debt ceiling

crisis, Schultz said.

Washington narrowly avoided a U.S. government default, but

not before down-to-the-wire wrangling prompted the country's

first-ever debt rating downgrade.

"There is something so wrong that we can be here again and

not have the ability to put party aside for the betterment of

the country," said Schultz. "We have the same language and

rhetoric. Unfortunately we aren't learning much."

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