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Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Some UB students join in call to boycott Starbucks

UB students weigh in on the coffee chain’s treatment of workers and perceived support of Israel’s military offensive

<p>Activists groups have been calling for the boycott of Starbucks over ethical concerns. Photo illustration by <a href="" target="_self">Alex Olen</a> | The Spectrum</p>

Activists groups have been calling for the boycott of Starbucks over ethical concerns. Photo illustration by Alex Olen | The Spectrum

As activists call for boycotts of Starbucks stores nationwide over poor working conditions, anti-labor activities and the chain’s stance on the war in Gaza, UB’s North Campus Starbucks location is unaffected.

Of an estimated 300 Starbucks locations on U.S. college campuses, 25 are facing calls for closure, according to The Guardian. Cornell University declined to renew its contract to serve Starbucks products last summer after protesters decried the company’s stance against unions.

A UB spokesperson confirmed that the university is aware of petitions at other universities and emphasized that UB does not currently have any direct contracts with Starbucks.

The Starbucks located across the street from the Student Union is a privately-run franchise located in the privately-owned Commons. UB’s food service provider, Campus Dining & Shops (CDS), sells Starbucks coffee at Perk’s, Capen Café, Whispers at Capen, Whispers at Abbott and Corner Café. 

CDS locations are a part of the “We Proudly Serve Starbucks” program, which allows businesses to sell Starbucks-branded products licensed by Nestlé, according to Raymond Kohl, director of marketing and communications for Campus Dining. (A 2018 licensing agreement has given Nestlé the exclusive rights to Starbucks-branded coffee products.) 

The National Labor Relations Board ruled in 38 cases that Starbucks committed unfair labor practices, with 16 decisions specifically related to “worker intimidation, discriminatory rules, and unlawful discipline and termination of union organizer.”

In recent months, the Starbucks opposition has grown in the wake of the Israel-Palestine war in Gaza. According to Time, pro-Palestinian activists have called for boycotting corporations such as Starbucks and McDonald’s for their “perceived support of Israel’s ongoing military offensive in Gaza,” as part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

Student activists at UB and college campuses across the country have held demonstrations in support of Palestine and taken up the BDS mantle. 

On Tuesday,  SUNY BDS’s Buffalo chapter hosted a screening of the first state-wide hard launch  in Crosby Hall. Speakers included founding member of Buffalo’s Marxist Youth League Alice Yaser, Palestinian-American activist Riham Barghouti and Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha.

SUNY BDS’s goal is to fight for Palestinian liberation by bringing an end to SUNY’s relationship with the state of Israel, in part by boycotting, which Barghouti called a “long-term project.”

“Show Palestinians we are standing in solidarity with them despite our government’s failure to end the genocide taking place,” Barghouti said. “Push for an ethical investment policy for SUNYs, that prohibits the university investments in companies that violate human rights and/or international law. There is no more room for ambiguity. You either support genocide or you don’t.” 

“Do not hide your anger and do not stop talking about Palestine,” Abu Toha, who was detained by the Israeli army in Gaza for the first 60 days of the conflict, said. “We can’t go against the occupation militarily, but we can, on an individual level, withdraw from anything that supports the occupation. This means boycotting things that normalize the occupation,”Abu Toha said. 

The calls for boycott have resonated with some students at UB, while others have reconciled with the convenience of the on-campus coffee location. Some students told The Spectrum that buying a frappuccino doesn’t seem like a big deal to them. 

“The Starbucks boycott is funny to me, like so stupid,” freshman architecture major Brendan Ridgeway said. 

“I’m Pro-Palestine, so I am boycotting.,” Victoria Reyes, a senior civil engineering major, said. “It’s better for my wallet to boycott them. I’m not missing Starbucks at all.”

Junior biological science major Maia Romanowski is aware of the boycott and supports it, but still purchases Starbucks for convenience. 

“I have the app and I’m a commuter, so it’s the most efficient for me,” she said.

Sophomore computer science major Jean Koki wasn’t aware of the boycott before a brief interview with The Spectrum, but he seemed to take a side after learning why some students were getting their coffee elsewhere. 

“F–k Starbucks,” Koki said. 

Others, like sophomore business major Zhakari Abeyemi, never purchased Starbucks in the first place, so a boycott was just more reason to keep doing what they were doing. 

Freshman biological science major Mackenzie Pautler has “has family in management”, so she tries to stay away from boycotting things and still purchases from Starbucks even though she admits it’s overpriced.

“I don’t wanna support Starbucks but it's my favorite place to study,” sophomore English major Jo Scheffler said. 

Sarah Owusu is a news editor and can be reached at 


Sarah Owusu is an assistant news editor at The Spectrum. In her free time she enjoys reading, baking, music and talking politics (yes, shockingly). She'll also be her own hairdresser when she needs a change. 



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