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Why Are People Boycotting Starbucks?

Do Boycotts Work? Exploring Starbuck’s $11 billion loss in market value.

Brooklyn's Starbucks is vandalized with anti Israel stickers and notes in New York City on October 28, 2023. Credit: Shutterstock/Ryan Rahman

The largest coffee company in the world just lost $11 billion in market value after a month of boycotts.

This historic loss in mid-November was after a period of controversial actions made by Starbucks. The company previously busted unions starting in 2021, which is an illegal practice. More recently, Starbucks’ relation to Israel and Palestine has been under scrutiny.

Starbucks and the Israel-Palestine War

Two days after the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Starbucks Workers United——a union representing 9,000 employees since 2021——spoke out about the situation. The group tweeted, “Solidarity with Palestine!” accompanied by a photo of Hamas tearing down a fence along the Gaza Strip. 

Less than an hour later, the post was deleted after the group claimed it wasn’t authorized by its members.

Starbucks attempted to sue Starbucks Workers United after the pro-Palestine message for the use of a logo resembling the Starbucks logo as well as the company name. The similarities caused confusion between the union and the company itself.

Starbucks union busting protest.
Activists marching at the Worker Solidarity Rally in support of unionization in Seattle, Washington, on April 23, 2022. Credit: Shutterstock/Ananya Mishra Photo.

Starbucks additionally posted a statement expressing its opposition to the union’s political stance. “To be clear: We unequivocally condemn these acts of terrorism, hate and violence and disagree with the statements and views expressed by Workers United and its members. Workers United’s words and actions belong to them, and them alone,” the post said.

The original post led some to believe that Starbucks itself posted the message. On social media, politicians even tweeted condemning the company. 

U.S. Senator Rick Scott tweeted, “Boycott Starbucks until its leadership strongly denounces and takes action against this horrific support of terrorism.”

After Starbucks filed its lawsuit, activists interpreted the defense as Starbucks’ support of Israel. 

Workers United released another official statement on the conflict. The union’s statement reads, “Furthermore, we condemn Starbucks for shamefully using this devastating humanitarian crisis to make false statements against our union and to vilify us.” 

Last month, Starbucks refiled the lawsuit, emphasizing their respect for workers to express their views on the war in the Middle East.

However, this didn’t stop pro-Palestine supporters from boycotting Starbucks due to the company’s reaction to the union’s tweet, rumors that the company funds genocide, and the involvement of Starbucks’ ex-CEO and proud pro-Israel supporter, Howard Schultz. Schultz is Starbucks’ largest private shareholder and former CEO of the company, Howard Schultz, and his support of Israel.

Starbucks protests and boycotts

Protests accusing Starbucks of siding with genocide started online, but now activists have taken to the streets to demand worldwide boycotts of the company. 

Protestors gather outside of stores across the U.S. chanting, “Starbucks, Starbucks, you can’t hide. You make drinks for genocide.”

@jayrscottyy

DON’T BUY @Starbucks #freepalestine 🇵🇸

♬ original sound – Jay

On TikTok alone, #boycottstarbucks has generated over 18,000 posts with 180 million views.

With this public attention, Starbucks responded on its website, releasing a “Facts About Starbucks Middle East,” statement. The website lists questions and answers addressing misinformation about their stance in the conflict.

For example, the website said that Schultz and the company itself do not provide financial support to the Israeli government or Army.

Despite the boycott’s relevance in recent news, there is no direct evidence that the boycott led to the company’s loss in sales. The next quarterly sales report won’t come out until February

Written By

I'm Jessica Walker and I'm a senior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in journalism and international relations. Along with writing and reporting, I'm also interested in foreign affairs and politics. I love traveling, reading good books, and watching and playing tennis.

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