- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Utah-based coffee company is hitting back at Starbucks’ vow to hire 10,000 refugees in response to President Trump’s extreme vetting program, saying it will hire an equal amount of military veterans instead.

Evan Hafer, CEO of the Black Rifle Coffee Company, said the ubiquitous corporate chain is making a “political statement” designed to mock conservatives, and that its plans are a reach anyway, since Starbucks would need to somehow obtain lists of the displaced.

Mr. Hafer said it makes more sense to do what his Salt Lake City company does: hire American veterans who’ve shouldered a heavy burden and could use a leg up in the workforce.

“We have bigger fish to fry,” he said in a brief phone interview. “The U.S. has been at war for 16 years, roughly.”

In a Jan. 29 message to employees, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said Starbucks was developing plans to hire 10,000 refugees over five years in the 75 countries where it does business.

“We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question,” wrote Mr. Schultz, who endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. “These uncertain times call for different measures and communication tools than we have used in the past.”

The plans sparked a backlash on social media among Trump supporters, who called for a boycott.

Mr. Hafer said he is committed to hiring 10,000 veterans over the next six years, as Black Rifle opens more franchises and expands its footprint on military installations. As it stands, the company has roughly 70 employees, about half of whom are veterans.

“It is a lofty goal,” he said.

In response to Black Rifle, Starbucks said it committed in 2013 to hiring 10,000 veterans within five years. It said it is on track to beat that goal, with 8,800 employed so far.

Mr. Schultz promised Starbucks’ refugee hiring blitz two days after Mr. Trump signed an order halting visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries — Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen — for 90 days, and halting the American refugee program for 120 days.

He also offered support for young “Dreamers” who were brought to the country illegally by their parents. And he reiterated the company’s commitment to connecting employees with health coverage, as congressional Republicans mull ways to repeal Obamacare.

The memo did give a nod to the armed forces, saying the refugee effort will start “here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support.”

Mr. Hafer applauded the sentiment but said it would be “pretty difficult” to assess who lent the U.S. a hand on the battlefield.

“Are you going to take their word for it?” he said. “I know how to get a veteran. That is an easy thing to vet.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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