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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Coffee controversy brewing: Students call for end to campus Starbucks

Students called to cancel Starbucks contracts due to alleged anti-union sentiment and unfair labor practices.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of 25 universities where students are calling for their university to cancel contracts with Starbucks due to allegations of union-busting and unfair treatment of workers.

UW-Madison student and State Street Starbucks shift supervisor Matthew Cartwright called on the university to support Starbucks workers and end its contract with Starbucks.

“No just higher education institution would continue to partner with a business which treats its workers unfairly,” Cartwright said. “Students are simply asking for their universities to stand by the principles they claim to have, just as we union members ask the company we work for to stand by the principles they claim to have.” 

There is one Starbucks located on the UW-Madison campus in Smith Residence Hall. There is another location just off campus on State Street. The State Street location has been vocal about worker mistreatment, including organizing protests and strikes. 

Over 400 stores have joined the union Starbucks Workers United since December 2021, but none have reached contractual agreements yet, according to the Guardian. Additionally, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed hundreds of charges against Starbucks for unfair labor practices.

Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull denied the allegations, claiming the company does not suppress workers’ rights to “organize, freely associate and collectively bargain.” The company operates “in compliance with all applicable labor laws,” he added.

“As alleged unfair labor practice charges work their 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,” Trull told The Daily Cardinal. 

Students protesting on at least one campus, Cornell University, secured their demands. The university decided not to renew its contract with the chain when it expires in 2025, according to The Cornell Daily Sun.

While the Starbucks brand may appear across college and university campuses, “most Starbucks locations on campuses are operated and managed by licensees, and, in most instances, campuses do not have direct contracts with the Company,” Trull said.

However, Cartwright still demanded UW-Madison to take action.“It is about the accountability we all share,” he said.

The Smith Hall Starbucks contract expires in 2030, and the State Street location has no affiliation with UW-Madison.

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