Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz Wants To Pay Laid-Off Seattle-Area Restaurant Workers $500 Each

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In Seattle, a new charitable organization is offering $500 payments to restaurant workers who have lost jobs or income during the pandemic. (Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images)
In Seattle, a new charitable organization is offering $500 payments to restaurant workers who have lost jobs or income during the pandemic. (Philippe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images)

In Seattle, a new charitable organization called The Plate Fund is offering $500 to restaurant workers who lost jobs or income during the coronavirus pandemic.

The fund's one-time payments serve as a “cash bridge” for workers waiting for government assistance to arrive, former CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz says. Founded in part by the Schultz Family Foundation, The Plate Fund aims to help the restaurant industry, the country’s second-largest private employer.

Most of the Seattle-area's 5,000 restaurants have been forced to close and many of their 100,00 employees have been laid off, according to AP.

“There's also another pandemic and it's the economic fracturing of small businesses across the country,” he says. “And specifically, the manifestation of that is the millions of people who are now unemployed to no fault of their own.”

Schultz says 30% to 40% of small businesses might not reopen and he’s concerned this could fracture the economy. He feels an obligation to help small businesses stay open and shed light on the “desperate situations” many Americans face.

The government assistance program was designed for big business, he says, not small businesses.

“When I hear the politicians talking about that small businesses are the economic engine of the American economy, that's true,” he says. “But the current assistance program does not demonstrate that.”

While most of the federal assistance money has been disbursed, most small businesses will say they didn’t qualify or that bureaucracy prevented them from receiving assistance, he says. He thinks funding small businesses is an urgent issue that can’t wait two to three months to solve.

In the meantime, The Plate Fund has raised $6 million and pledged to help at least 12,000 people. So far, 55,000 people have visited the website and the fund has processed 7,000 applications, which Schultz says “demonstrates the desperation.”

To solve this problem nationwide, he thinks the government should provide 80% of workers’ salaries, an approach taken by the United Kingdom. He also says the government should support banks in providing low-finance bridge loans for every small business and restaurant that won’t be able to reopen.

“I completely agree with the economists that the crisis of capitalism over this last decade has added to the inequality issue that exists in America,” he says, “especially when President Trump went ahead and gave that corporate tax cut, which had no bearing on the economy and didn't address inequality.”

Schultz says he thinks businesses, the government, philanthropists and nonprofits should come together and reframe what corporate responsibility means. Then, look at how the government can address the issue of inequality — which he says the coronavirus pandemic will significantly enhance in the coming months.

More From The Interview

On Starbucks’ decision to keep drive-thrus open

“We've done two things. First off, Starbucks is paying all its employees during the coronavirus and so that there is no issue whatsoever with employees who had been fired, terminated or furloughed. We have not done that. Secondarily, we've taken the most strict safety and health precautions for our people and our customers and provided a drive-thru service for our customers. We think that's the right thing to do at this point as people are looking for Starbucks coffee to be open and we're just trying to do everything we can to, in a sense, exceed the expectations of the customer during this very difficult time and protect our people.”

On whether he endorses Joe Biden for president

“I'm speaking to the Biden people. Joe Biden is a very good friend of mine over the years. And certainly, I'm going to be enthusiastic for his campaign and hope that he becomes the next president of the United States.”

Chris Bentley produced and edited this story for broadcast with Tinku RayAllison Hagan adapted it for the web. 

This segment aired on April 15, 2020.


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Jeremy Hobson Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.


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Allison Hagan Digital Producer, Here & Now
Allison Hagan is a digital producer for Here & Now.



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