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Starbucks Faces Boycotts After Pledging to Hire 10,000 Refugees

Grant Whittington headshotWords by Grant Whittington
Leadership & Transparency
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On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for at least 90 days. Protests erupted almost immediately, and business leaders lined up to take a stand against the order.

One of those execs is Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who promised to hire 10,000 refugees over five years. In a letter to employees, Schultz wrote about his intentions to respond to Trump’s controversial travel ban and his first week in office.

“There are more than 65 million citizens of the world recognized as refugees by the United Nations, and we are developing plans to hire 10,000 of them over five years in the 75 countries around the world where Starbucks does business,” Schultz wrote. “And we will start this effort here in the U.S.”

It wasn’t long before the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks started trending on Twitter. The bulk of the tweets complained that Starbucks plans to favor hiring refugees when Americans remain out of work.

Critics also questioned why Starbucks launched an initiative supporting refugees but not one supporting veterans, but this claim is largely baseless: Starbucks has an active veterans employee network, as well as dedicated veterans hiring and education initiatives

This isn't the first time #BoycottStarbucks hit Twitter. Starbucks previously came under fire after a video surfaced of a self-proclaimed Trump supporter alleging a barista wouldn’t serve him because she was anti-white.

The boycott calls were quickly followed by the #TrumpCup challenge -- which called on Trump-supporting Starbucks fans to give baristas the name "Trump" when ordering. Since Starbucks baristas must shout out a customer's name when an order is finished, the idea was to compel a resounding chorus of the then-candidate's name in Starbucks across the country. Racial justice advocates tried something similar last summer, giving baristas the name "Black Lives Matter." 

But Starbucks recent political statement came straight from the top. Along with the initiative to hire scores of refugees, Schultz said he stands in solidarity with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA was introduced in 2012 under the Obama administration to allow undocumented minors who entered the country unlawfully a two-year period of deferred action from deportation and citizenship eligibility.

Schultz also wrote that Starbucks will strengthen its partnership with Mexico, despite Trump’s promise to create a physical border between the U.S. and its southern neighbor.

In a section of the letter titled “Building Bridges, Not Walls, With Mexico,” Schultz wrote: “Coffee is what unites our common heritage ... We stand ready to help and support our Mexican customers, partners and their families as they navigate what impact proposed trade sanctions, immigration restrictions, and taxes might have on their business and their trust of Americans.”

The letter also touched on the company’s commitment to providing its employers with adequate health care. But make no mistake, the biggest splash came from Schultz’s refugee employment commitment.

With 90 million customers and 25,000 stores worldwide, Schultz said he is committed “to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time — whether that neighborhood is in a Red State or a Blue State; a Christian country or a Muslim country; a divided nation or a united nation.”

Image courtesy of Starbucks (press use only) 

Grant Whittington headshotGrant Whittington

Based in Washington, DC, Grant works as a program assistant at SEEP Network, an international development nonprofit. A proud graduate of the University of Maryland, Grant spent four months post-grad living in Armenia where he worked for Habitat for Humanity and the World Food Programme. Grant is passionate about humanitarianism and finding sustainable approaches to international development. He enjoys playing trivia with friends but is still seeking his first victory - he ceaselessly blames his friends lack of preparation.

Read more stories by Grant Whittington