On Oct. 18, 2023, Starbucks released a statement announcing they had filed a complaint with the District Court for the Southern District of Iowa against Starbucks Workers United. This litigation was filed due to the organization's use of the Starbucks name, logo and intellectual property while posting in solidarity with Palestine.
Following the news of this litigation, many Palestinian rights activists and organizations called on people to boycott Starbucks. This boycott is ongoing, but it is unclear how many people are actually participating and if Starbucks has been detrimentally affected thus far. In the past few months, however, sales have reported to have slowed and the company has lost $12 billion of its market value.
On Michigan State University's campus, the effects of this boycott remain to be seen. Starbucks supervisor and environmental biology and microbiology sophomore Morgan Bresson said there has been little change in business at the 1855 Place location on campus.
“I feel like it's a very bizarre situation,” Bresson said. “However, we are still having a good flow of customers.”
According to data provided by MSU Culinary Services, during the first semester, from Aug. 2023 to Nov. 2023, an average of 4,600 combos were spent every week at the 1855 Place Starbucks. Since the beginning of the second semester, from Dec. 2023 to Jan. 2024, an average of 4,100 combos were used.
In addition to the continuous presence of customers at this existing location, students returned from winter break to a brand-new Starbucks in the MSU Main Library. Students can now use their combo exchanges to purchase a drink and food at both the library and 1855 Place locations.
These combos are included in every on-campus dining plan, so students have the option to get something from Starbucks without having to pay out of pocket.
At her second visit to the MSU Library Starbucks, interior design sophomore Natalie Connors used her combos and said it made it a lot easier.
“I think it’s just a convenient spot,” Connors said.
With the MSU Library’s central location on campus, its opening brought long lines of students to Starbucks’ registers.
Students for Palestinian Rights, or SUPR, President and finance senior Omar Mahmoud said targeted boycotting, which has been used throughout history as a form of protest, can be a beneficial way to express support for a movement and create change.
“When we’re all directing our boycotting at a certain company or area, we can do a lot of damage,” Mahmoud said.
Since the end of 2023, Starbucks has experienced historical losses on the market. However, other factors have contributed to the corporation’s losses, so it is unclear if the boycott has been significantly successful.
“Unfortunately, I think the world has shown us that many people don’t care about other people’s lives and they care more about convenience,” Mahmoud said.
Any amount of money spent at an on-campus Starbucks, whether that be directly out of pocket or in the form of a combo, may be going to the corporation.
Both the 1855 Place and MSU Library Starbucks locations are franchised by the university; according to Associate Director of Support Services for the Culinary Services Department Stacey Dawson this means that money made by Starbucks locations on campus goes both to the university and the Starbucks company.
“We pay a yearly licensing fee as well as royalties on products sold to Starbucks,” Dawson said. “All sales minus expenses, licensing fees and royalties go to the university.”
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