- Starbucks announced a partnership with Lyft that will provide all of the coffee chain’s 200,000 U.S. employees with a free, one-way Lyft ride worth up to $75 to the polls to vote on Election Day on Nov. 3. Employees can also use the ride to volunteer as a poll worker or drop off a ballot at a post office, ballot box or other drop-off location.
- In a letter shared companywide, CEO Kevin Johnson wrote, “The upcoming election is a reminder that we, as citizens, play an active role in our society by simply getting involved and voting … Yet we know barriers exist, notably in Black and Brown communities throughout the nation, that lend to systemic racism and require greater voter access and protections.”
- The announcement is the latest effort Starbucks is making as part of its Fuel Our Democracy initiative, which encourages its employees to vote. Starbucks also has a dedicated website where employees and customers can register, receive election reminders or apply for a mail-in ballot. Starbucks is also working with the Civic Alliance to encourage its employees to volunteer as poll workers.
Get out the vote initiatives at major businesses have been gaining steam as Election Day approaches, but Starbucks' ride-share initiative seems to be unique in the restaurant industry as the coffee chain leverages its relationship with Lyft.
The relationship between the two companies dates back to 2015 when all Lyft drivers were given the option of becoming Starbucks loyalty program gold members. That partnership also enabled riders to tip their Lyft drivers with Starbucks e-gifts, and provided rides to work for the coffee chain’s employees.
In this latest collaboration, Starbucks and Lyft are working to remove on of the largest barrier to voting: a lack of transportation. The obstacle especially impacts low-income citizens who may not have access to a car, or who live in areas where public transportation is not always available. A new study from the Knight Foundation also shows that people of color make up a greater share of nonvoters, and nonvoters tend to be less educated, poorer and younger. Lyft has a presence in hundreds of cities across all 50 states and Washington, DC, so this specific partnership can provide access to those who may need it. Lyft is also offering 50% off one ride up to $10 to any polling location or dropbox.
Several other restaurant chains are encouraging their employees to vote and removing friction points that may be in their way. Cava, Mod Pizza and Sweetgreen, for example, are providing paid-time off for employees on Election Day. &pizza is closing all of its stores on Nov. 3 and has also added voter registration portals at its stores. Even restaurant giants like Yum Brands and Chipotle are working to get their employees and customers to the polls.
Still, Starbucks has been a leader here, teaming up with TurboVote in 2016, for example, to register its baristas. However, more restaurant companies seem to be getting involved. In 2018, for example, 150 companies were listed on voter policy website ElectionDay.org. This year, there are more than 700 so far on board. No doubt plenty of issues affect restaurant workers, particularly as the industry is the second-largest private sector employer in the country.