Starbucks joins McDonald's and Walmart in calling for Congress to pass stimulus package, as CEO announces plans for $15 minimum wage

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Kevin Johnson
Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is calling for government stimulus to save small businesses. Joshua Trujillo, Starbucks

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson is calling for a new stimulus package to save small businesses - including independent coffee shops across America. 

"We need Congress to take action," Johnson said at Starbucks' investor day on Wednesday. 

Later on Wednesday, Johnson released an open letter to Congress, encouraging lawmakers to pass a second stimulus package. In the letter, Johnson highlights Starbucks' efforts to support workers, including plans to pay all employees in the US at least $15 per hour within the next two to three years. 

"Starbucks urges Congress to take immediate bipartisan action to pass new COVID relief legislation to address the urgent needs in our communities, especially for the millions of Americans out of work, small businesses facing economic uncertainty and the public health needs of state and local governments on the front lines of the pandemic," Johnson wrote.  

Johnson joins the chief executives of McDonald's and Walmart in calling for further aid. 

"I think it's important that we all understand in some ways we are having a shared experience because we are in a pandemic together, but we are having a very different experience," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit in late October. 

"If you have been let go and don't have income, you really need help," McMillon continued. "The voice we have at Walmart is to say to Congress and the administration we need you to help those people who need help." 

Stimulus negotiations have dragged on for months, with Congress running out of time to pass a proposed $908 billion bipartisan proposal before the new year. 

"The slow negotiations over COVID-19 relief have in recent days boiled down to two major sticking points: the scale of funding to state and local governments, and protections for businesses from litigation by employees who get the virus," reports Insider's Mia Jankowicz. 

Read more: The $908 billion coronavirus stimulus deal could be the next one Trump signs: Here's what you need to know about the relief package and its chances of passing.

Experts say Starbucks will cash in on the closures of independent coffee shops 

Starbucks sales declined during the pandemic, with comparable sales down 9% in the US in the fourth quarter.

However, analysts say that Starbucks is likely to win over customers with the closures of independent coffee shops, as roughly 110,000 restaurants have already closed across the US. On Tuesday, Cowen analyst Andrew Charles named Starbucks as one of his four favorite stocks best suited to capitalize on the $39 billion in restaurant sales that are "up for grabs due to the closure of independents." 

Johnson said on Wednesday that a stimulus package is necessary to prevent closures of small businesses. Starbucks does not want these independent coffee shops to close, Johnson said. 

"This is not a competition," Johnson said. "We are grounded in humanity."

Starbucks executives expressed optimism about the future of the company, announcing Starbucks expects outsized non-GAAP earnings per share growth of at least 20% in fiscal year 2022. Starbucks updated its fiscal year 2023 and 2024 expectations for ongoing annual non-GAAP EPS growth rate to a range of 10% to 12%, up from at least 10%. 

Read Johnson's full letter to Congress here: 

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi and Leader McCarthy,

Over the course of the past 11 months, all of humanity has united behind our common cause to contain and mitigate the COVID-19 virus. I have found, in our collective resilience and determination, a lot to be optimistic about. However, as we look to the future, it's clear that this global pandemic has presented the world and its leaders with unprecedented challenges that must be addressed both in the near- and long-term.

People around the world and in every American community are struggling with hardships caused, exacerbated, or simply made more visible by the pandemic. We share in the hope that the COVID-19 vaccines bring, but we know that until vaccines are broadly distributed in 2021, American families and small businesses will continue to face insurmountable hardships. Navigating this pandemic is intertwined with ensuring American prosperity; both must be addressed in tandem.

This moment will require all leaders-from governments, businesses and communities-to come together to help address a common cause, just as we have done many times throughout American history. Starbucks urges Congress to take immediate bipartisan action to pass new COVID relief legislation to address the urgent needs in our communities, especially for the millions of Americans out of work, small businesses facing economic uncertainty and the public health needs of state and local governments on the front lines of the pandemic.
 
At Starbucks, we will continue to navigate this pandemic as we have since January, guided by three principles: 1) prioritizing the health and well-being of our partners (we refer to all Starbucks employees as "partners") and customers; 2) playing a constructive role in supporting health and government officials as they work to mitigate the spread of this virus and 3) showing up in positive and responsible ways to serve our communities.

I have been awed and inspired by the way my Starbucks partners have shown up for their communities in the face of extraordinary circumstances. In return, we have taken action to support our partners because they are the heartbeat of our company. We provided catastrophe pay and service pay for partners whose stores were closed due to the pandemic and those unable to work due to effects of COVID, without any involuntary layoffs. We also recently shared one of our biggest wage investments of at least a 10 percent pay increase for our partners, all of whom already earn more than the minimum wage. With these investments, more than 30 percent of our U.S. retail partners are currently at or above $15/hour and we continue on our path to ensure all U.S. partners will be making at or above $15/hour within the coming two to three years. And as we always do, we will continue explore what more we can do to provide compensation and benefits in support of our partners.

Starbucks will also continue supporting customers and the communities we serve. Since the onset of COVID-19, Starbucks has remained close to national, state and local health officials to ensure our business decisions are anchored to and guided by facts and science. The store changes we have made prioritize customer safety while providing familiar experiences. The nearly 2 million cups of coffee we have provided to front-line healthcare workers and first-responders-as well as the 5 million meals we have donated through our FoodShare program and the $9 million The Starbucks Foundation has donated to COVID-19 relief efforts-have, I hope, set an example of putting people above profit.
Starbucks remains committed to the work ahead. We stand ready to partner with government officials at all levels to address the next phase of this pandemic recovery and serve as a beacon of warmth and welcome for all communities.

Together, we have the opportunity to inspire the human spirit and demonstrate the resilience and courage that highlight the best of our people - and the best of our country.

Thank you for your work on behalf of American families, businesses and communities.

With respect and gratitude,

Kevin

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