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Interfaith Group Asks Starbucks to Drop Vegan Milk Surcharge

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FILE - Actor James Cromwell arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Tuesday, June 12, 2018. Cromwell glued his hand to a midtown Manhattan Starbucks counter to protest the coffee chain’s extra charge for plant-based milk, Tuesday, May 10, 2022, in New York. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

BOSTON (AP) — A group of Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish leaders is asking Starbucks to stop charging extra for vegan milk alternatives, saying the practice amounts to a tax on people who have embraced plant-based lifestyles.

In a statement issued Friday, an interfaith coalition led by Nevada-based Hindu activist Rajan Zed pressed the coffee chain to end the surcharges it called “unethical and unfair.”

“A coffee company should not be in the business of taxing individuals who had chosen the plant-based lifestyle,” said Zed’s statement, which was also signed by Thomas W. Blake, an Episcopal priest; Greek Orthodox clergyman Stephen R. Karcher; Buddhist priest Matthew Fisher; and Jewish rabbi ElizaBeth Webb Beyer.

The religious leaders cited numerous reasons why some Starbucks customers prefer alternatives to dairy, including dietary restrictions, ethical issues, environmental concerns, lactose intolerance, milk allergies and animal welfare.

Those who want plant-based milk should not have to pay more, they said, calling on the Seattle-based company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, and board chair Mellody Hobson to immediately drop the surcharge.

Starbucks outlets in the United States typically charge 50 cents to a dollar more for drinks made with plant-based milks.

Starbucks doesn’t charge for a splash of nondairy milk, including soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk and oat milk, though it does levy a surcharge for customized beverages made largely with those substitutes, spokesperson Megan Adams told The Associated Press.

It is not the first time Starbucks’ surcharge has riled the public. On Tuesday, activist and actor James Cromwell glued his hand to the counter of a Starbucks franchise in New York City to protest the practice.

Cromwell, 81, later used a knife to scrape it off. Police said there were no arrests.

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Stocks fall as Fed signals rates need to go still higher

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Stocks closed lower on Wall Street and Treasury yields rose Thursday afternoon after more indications from the Federal Reserve that it may need to raise interest rates much higher than many people expect to get inflation under control.

The S&P 500 fell 0.3%, with retailers and banks among the biggest weights on the benchmark index. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped less than 0.1%, while the Nasdaq composite closed 0.3% lower.

Decliners outnumbered gainers on the New York Stock Exchange by nearly a 2-to-1 margin. Smaller company stocks fell harder than the rest of the market, pulling the Russell 2000 index 0.8% lower.

Bond yields rose and hovered around multidecade highs. The yield on the two-year Treasury note rose to 4.45% from 4.37% late Wednesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, rose to 3.77% from 3.69% late Wednesday.

The Fed has been raising rates aggressively in order to tame inflation by applying the brakes to the economy. Investors have been hoping that more signs of easing inflation could help the central bank shift to less aggressive rate increases.

The central bank, though, has been clear about its intent to keep raising rates, possibly to unexpectedly high levels, to tame inflation. James Bullard, who leads the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, reaffirmed that position in a presentation on Thursday, suggesting the Fed’s short-term rate may have to rise to a level between 5% and 7% in order to quash stubbornly hot inflation. The central bank has already raised its key rate to a range of 3.75% to 4%, up from nearly zero as recently as last March.

“Bullard’s comments this morning suggesting that they need to get the fed fund (rate) between 5% and 7% was a surprise, to say the least, to markets,” said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments. “That certainly was a shock to folks and pushed us further down.”

The S&P 500 fell 12.23 points to 3,946.56. The Dow dropped 7.51 points to 33,546.32. The Nasdaq lost 38.70 points to close at 11,144.96. The Russell 2000 index fell 14.04 points to 1,839.12. The major indexes are all headed for weekly losses.

The presentation from Bullard follows reports showing that inflation is starting to ease somewhat, but still remains extremely hot as consumers continue spending amid a very strong jobs market. Strong spending and employment remain a potential bulwark against the economy slipping into a recession. It also means the Fed will likely remain aggressive and raises the risk that it will hit the brakes hard enough on the economy to actually bring on a recession.

Stock markets “got a little bit ahead of themselves” after getting encouraging reports on consumer and wholesale prices easing a bit, said Ross Mayfield, investment strategist at Baird. “But, the Fed knows they have a long way to go.”

“When you have the (Fed) statement already laying it out and someone like Bullard saying what he said, there is a little bit of jawboning markets back down and letting investors know this fight is not over.”

Outside of concerns about inflation, the market is also worried about Russia’s war in Ukraine and lockdowns in China hurting the global economy.

The conflict in Ukraine has been weighing on the energy sector and any worsening could cause spikes in prices for oil, gas and other commodities that the region produces. U.S. oil prices fell 4.6%.

China’s “zero-COVID” approach has caused a supply crunch for some of Asia’s biggest manufacturers, denting economic growth.

Markets in Asia and Europe fell.

Companies are also wrapping up the latest round of earnings reports. Macy’s jumped 15% after beating analysts’ quarterly financial forecasts and raising its earnings outlook.

Retailer Bath & Body Works soared 25.2% after reporting strong financial results.

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CFHLA CEO Robert Agrusa Receives Recognition from State Rep. Daisy Morales

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Former State Rep. Daisy Morales recognizes CFHLA President and CEO Robert Agrusa at his office. Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).
Former State Rep. Daisy Morales recognizes CFHLA President and CEO Robert Agrusa at his office. Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – State Representative Daisy Morales (D-Orlando) presented Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO Robert Agrusa with a certificate at the CFHLA headquarters last week.

Rep. Morales honored his and the CFHLA’s strong relationship and support for her office. The certificate for “Outstanding Support” reads in part: “I hereby recognize you for your support of the Office of State Representative Daisy Morales.”

 

Former State Rep. Daisy Morales recognizes CFHLA President and CEO Robert Agrusa at his office. Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

State Rep. Daisy Morales recognizes CFHLA President and CEO Robert Agrusa at his office. Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

 

“I’m honored to recognize Mr. Agrusa,” said Representative Morales. “I appreciate Mr. Agrusa’s and the CFHLA’s commitment to our rebounding and ever-growing hospitality industry.”

 

Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

Photo: Daisy Morales (via Facebook).

 

According to research done earlier this year, some 36 million travelers visited Florida in the first quarter of 2022, just six million more than the visitors in 4th quarter of 2021, and the numbers are on a steady upward trajectory. Prior to the pandemic, Florida boasted an average of over 72 million visitors per year.

The CFHLA will host its annual Hospitality Gala, its signature black tie event in which the organization recognizes hospitality industry leaders and supporters, on December 17, 2022 at the Disney Coronado Resort.

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Mellissa Thomas is Editor for Florida National News. | mellissa.thomas@floridanationalnews.com

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Hotelier Jan Gautam receives Impact Award from State Representative Daisy Morales

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ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN) – Florida State Representative Daisy Morales (D-Orlando) presented Jan Gautam, President and CEO of IHRMC with her office 2022 Impact Award during an annual Diwali celebration on October 28.

Florida National News Photo/J Willie David, III

Mr. Gautam is the President & CEO of Interessant Hotel & Resort Management (IHRMC), a hotel management company that owns, operates, and develops hotel properties globally.   Gautam has achieved recognition in leading organizations and committees in which he has dedicated countless hours to in order to support his commitment to the hospitality industry & is heavily involved in numerous national & local chapters & boards to support tourism and governmental interaction that supported or held consensus to expanding the well-being of hotel owners and business associations.

“I’m honored to recognize business leaders this way,” said Representative Morales. “I’m so proud of Mr. Gautam’s commitment to the hospitality industry and his outstanding community service to Central Florida makes him right choice for this award.”

According to his website, Gautam “has served on committees such as the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) as a Regional Ambassador, Board of Directors with Visit Florida, Board of Directors with Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, InterContinental Hotels Responsible Business Committee, IHG Procurement Committee, Rollins College International Advisory Board Bylaws Committee, Indian American Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, and numerous local chapters to support Tourism and Governmental interaction that supported or held consensus to expanding the wellbeing of hotel owners and business associations alike.”

Gautam hosted a Diwali celebration in Kissimmee and took time to share the Hindu holiday’s meaning as well as his community’s goal to make it nationally recognized.

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