Free-Market Criticism of Starbucks CEO’s Liberal Agenda Brewing for Annual Investor Meeting

Activists Ready for Third Appearance at a Starbucks Shareholder Meeting

Business Insider Reports Starbucks’ “Brand Has Taken a Beating” After Coffeehouse Giant Challenges Trump Agenda

Seattle, WA / Washington, D.C. – Trouble is brewing at Starbucks, and the nation’s leading proponent of free-market investor activism is set to question Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on March 22 about how the political agenda influencing how the coffeehouse giant operates is reportedly hurting the brand and harming shareholders’ investments.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a Starbucks shareholder, is sending the director of its Free Enterprise Project (FEP) to the annual Starbucks investor meeting to raise concerns about how liberal political stances and attacks on President Donald Trump could be damaging the company’s reputation and sales. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 22 at 10 a.m. Pacific at the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle, Washington. This will be the third time a National Center representative has attended a Starbucks shareholder meeting.

“Coffee has no political allegiance, but Starbucks under Schultz’s leadership has been unwavering in its support of liberal causes to the detriment of its brand and shareholder value,” said National Center General Counsel and FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq., who plans to attend Wednesday’s meeting and has questioned Schultz at previous shareholder meetings. “As Schultz is set to retire next month, it remains to be seen if his successor will work to unite Americans and make Starbucks more inviting to conservative and libertarian consumers, or if the company’s new leadership will continue Schultz’s divisive politicking.”

At the meeting, Danhof plans to address how Starbucks has taken many controversial policy positions under Schultz’s leadership that are reportedly hurting the company’s image and profits. For example, in 2013, in response to a concern about a Starbucks boycott related to the company’s support of same-sex marriage, Schultz said the company wanted to “embrace diversity” and invited the investor raising the issue to sell his shares. The company was also criticized for its “Race Together Initiative” that sought to engage customers in discussions with Starbucks employees about race relations as well as for its refusal to acknowledge Christmas on its holiday cups. Most recently, Business Insider reports “Starbucks’ brand has taken a beating” due to Schultz’s criticism of President Trump’s initial executive order on immigration and for plans to hire 10,000 refugees.

On March 22, the National Center will post the text of its prepared question for the Starbucks CEO prominently on the National Center website when the shareholder meeting starts (which can be accessed here after posting). Any comments from the Free Enterprise Project after the meeting will be also be available on the site (directly accessible here) within hours of the conclusion of the meeting.

At the 2016 Starbucks meeting, the National Center presented a shareholder proposal asking the company to protect its employees from penalties at work stemming from their private, legal political activities. Opposed by Starbucks, but accepted by other major corporations, the National Center’s “Employee Conscience Protection Project” led to policies safeguarding the personal political activities and beliefs of over five million employees at 13 major U.S. companies including Walmart, Pepsi, Visa, General Electric, Home Depot and more.

In 2014, Schultz was commended by the National Center during the shareholder meeting for not bowing to the anti-science demands of radical environmental activists who were seeking to force Starbucks to purge its products of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Launched in 2007, the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project is the nation’s preeminent free-market activist group – focusing on shareholder activism and the confluence of big government and big business. Since 2014, National Center representatives have participated in nearly 100 shareholder meetings to advance free-market ideals in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, food policies, media bias, gun rights, workers’ rights and many other important public policy issues. The Starbucks meeting will mark FEP’s fourth shareholder meeting so far in 2017.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project activism has yielded a tremendous return on investment:

  • FEP’s highly-publicized questioning of support for the Clinton Foundation by Boeing and General Electric helped trigger an FBI investigation of the Clinton Foundation’s activities that dominated the 2016 presidential campaign.
  • FEP inquiries prompted Facebook to address political bias against conservatives in social media.
  • Company executives acknowledged media bias at ABC News (Disney), the Washington Post and CNN (Time Warner) in response to FEP’s challenges, which helped to bring about more objective reporting and more balanced political representation.
  • FEP’s “Employee Conscience Protection Project” strengthened protections for the political beliefs and activities of over five million workers at 13 major U.S. corporations.

In 2016, the Free Enterprise Project was featured in the Washington Post, the Washington Times, the Fox News Channel’s “Cavuto,” the Drudge Report, the Financial Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, the Hollywood Reporter, the Los Angeles Times, Fortune, Newsmax, the Daily Caller, Lifezette, the Seattle Times, the Quad City Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune among many others. The Free Enterprise Project was also featured in Wall Street Journal writer Kim Strassel’s 2016 book The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech (Hachette Book Group).

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors. Follow us on Twitter at @NationalCenter for general announcements. To be alerted to upcoming media appearances by National Center staff, follow our media appearances Twitter account at @NCPPRMedia.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.