Students pushing for schools to bar Starbucks from campuses

Feb 23, 2024, 8:58 AM | Updated: 9:34 am

starbucks campuses...

Members and supporters of Starbucks Workers United protest outside of a Starbucks store in Dupont Circle on November 16, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

(Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Rallies occurred at 25 campuses across the country to protest Starbucks being on school grounds after the company failed to negotiate contracts with the thousands of baristas who’ve unionized over the last two years.

Protesters sent petitions to 25 schools, ranging from Georgetown to UCLA to Wisconsin to UNC, claiming unless the coffee retail giant changes its labor practices, the chain should be banned from campuses. There is no word yet if any Washington colleges are on the list.

More on Starbucks: Starbucks union calls for strikes, pickets ahead of shareholder meeting

“If Starbucks was a student, they would have been expelled by now because of the number of rules they’ve broken,” Valli Pendyala, a freshman at Georgetown University, told CBS News. “That’s why we’re taking action to demand that Georgetown lets its contract with Starbucks expire and that it holds Starbucks accountable for its attacks on its workers.”

In response, Starbucks stated it is focused on building a better future for all employees, including negotiating fair contracts.

“While we remain longstanding advocates of civil discourse, our focus is on fulfilling our promise to offer a bridge to a better future for all partners — through competitive pay, industry-leading benefits for part-time work and our continued efforts to negotiate fair contracts for partners at stores that have chosen union representation,” Starbucks told KIRO Newsradio in an emailed statement.

“To be clear: Starbucks is fully committed to the rights of our partners to organize, freely associate and collectively bargain, and we operate in compliance with all applicable labor laws,” Starbucks’ statement continued. “We also disagree with claims made that Starbucks engages in ‘union busting.’ As alleged unfair labor practice charges work way through the dispute resolution process, we continue to act in a manner that is consistent with established law, rooted in our mission, values and promises, and responsive to our partners — regardless of union status.”

Cornell University was the first university to successfully remove Starbucks from its premises, announcing last year that it would not renew its agreement with the coffee chain once it expires in June 2025. The decision to remove Starbucks from Cornell stemmed from the company’s decision earlier that year to close its last two corporate stores in Ithaca, New York — both of which were union stores, according to Restaurant Dive.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) called upon Starbucks last December to immediately reopen the 23 stores that workers alleged were shut down in response to union-organizing activities. Eight of the 23 stores the NLRB identified in the latest case as closing had unionized, according to Axios. Half of the shuttered Washington stores on the NLRB list were unionized at the time of their closure.

More on Starbucks: Starbucks accused of illegally closing dozens of stores by NLRB

The NLRB previously said that the company violated federal labor law by telling workers they couldn’t testify when subpoenaed unless they were able to get their shift covered. They also ruled that the company illegally told workers they could not perform union-related activities while on break.

Union employees have previously come forward, saying that the company actively suppressed organizing, and they fear retaliation. The NLRB has filed at least 130 unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks, a majority of which involve managers making illegal threats or promises to interfere with union activity.

As for schools within the state, the University of Washington’s (UW) contract with Starbucks includes a $30,000 license fee per Starbucks branded store developed under the contract, alongside a 7% monthly royalty rate, 1% monthly advertising fee, 1% quarterly local marketing fee and a requirement that the university system purchase all supplies from Starbucks or an approved vendor, according to Restaurant Dive. UW’s contract with Starbucks was renewed last summer.

Contributing: Luke Duecy, KIRO Newsradio

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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