Starbucks creates refugee storm in a coffee cup

Starbucks creates refugee storm in a coffee cup
In the minds of Starbucks execs, this is entirely commercial, entirely political. If they wanted to help refugees, they would have done it before it was an issue. They are bringing this up now to get more customers from the left, claims satirist Tim Young.

Protests against Donald Trump's immigration ban continue in the US. The order temporarily barring migrants from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering America sparked broad outrage.

Starbucks, one of the world's biggest coffee chains, is weighing-in by backing refugees. Starbucks' CEO Howard Schultz said the company plans to hire 10,000 refugees in countries around the globe over the next five years.

RT: What do you make of Starbucks' announcement? Is it commercially motivated, politically motivated, or is it just a case of doing what they feel is right.

Tim Young: I think it is not them doing the right thing morally. In their minds, this is completely commercial, completely political. If they wanted to help the refugees, they would have done it before it was a political issue. So they are bringing this up now to get more customers from the left. They are seeing this large group of people from the left here protesting Donald Trump, and they want to get this business, and that is a good way to try to get that business.

RT: Trump is running with his 'America First' slogan, products ought to be made in America, tax relief for small businesses. Many might think you should give jobs to Americans first and not necessarily to refugees. Isn’t that right?

TY: If we paid attention to the last election, which the theme was 'America First' from Trump, you would think that would be the right thing to do. I think one of the things that we’re not looking at here is that Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, has been trying to get political and potentially run for some major office over the past few years with the Democratic Party. No one has brought that into the story. He actually considered running against Hillary Clinton in this last election.

RT: Trump is up against big companies that don’t necessarily agree with what he is trying to do either. Do you think that also represents the corporate struggle that he faces at the moment?

TY: They are a lot of big companies that agree with what he is trying to do, as well. So it is a kind of an even balance. But what you’re seeing, it is nearly this marketing strategy; it is trying to seem political, and it may backfire on them, it may not. It seems like America is divided 50/50. Starbucks is getting an awful a lot of promotion about it. We’re talking about it right now.

'Encourages wrong behavior'

Ami Horowitz, political satirist

RT: What do you make of Starbucks' announcement? Should we see it as a lovely gesture?

Ami Horowitz: I boycott Starbucks because it sucks, to be honest. But no, let’s take it for what it is. It is a nice gesture. Howard Schultz, a very liberal gentleman on the political spectrum, and he simply wanted to reach out to help refugees. Now, the question is not whether or not it is a good gesture, or a bad gesture, economically motivated, or socially motivated. The question: is it the right move to make? I personally do not think it is the right move to make. I think it encourages the wrong behavior. He could be hiring Americans. These are good-paying jobs; they get medical benefits, they get educational benefits. That is a great stepping-stone job for people with first jobs. So I think those jobs should go to Americans first. Having said that, do I think it was politically motivated? No, he is just doing what he thinks is the right thing.

RT: There are big political divisions in the US right now. Is there a chance this could backfire, as there should be many people, who think that Schultz should have put Americans first?

HS: If I have a company if I am an actor, and my business depends on bringing people in. All people, not liberals, not conservatives – you would not know what my political opinion is on anything, right? If my job is to create a shareholder value, I simply would keep my mouth shut on all political issues. Certain stuff is divisive, as you see here with the refugee issue. So yes, it could absolutely backfire. His shareholders should be looking at like: “What the hell are you doing? We’re just trying to create shareholder value. We want more people to buy your horrible coffee. Why are doing this?...”

RT: Do you think that the demonstrations that we’re seeing at the moment are likely to die down anytime soon on a broader point?

HS: Come on, these guys are all out of jobs anyways, so what else do they have to do? It is tough to say. My guess is that they would have died out by now. But the issue is that literally, every move he makes is simply creating such a firestorm; it is a whole new reason to go out there and demonstrate, right? So if he didn’t do this refugee ban, then it may have died out from the election. Every move he is going to make is going to create a firestorm across this country, apparently across the world. He is going to keep these guys in business for quite a while. So I don’t see it is dying down because it is not just about his election; it is not just about this refugee ban. Every policy he puts forth – the next we’ll be seeing is his Supreme Court Justice pick – everything he does is going to create an outcry… and people will continue to be out there (protesting), and it may continue for his entire presidency.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.