New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Students deliver letter calling for removal of on-campus Starbucks

A group of students delivered a letter for President Linda Mills demanding that the university cut its ties with the on-campus Starbucks location due to its alleged labor union violations.
Matt Petres
Members of “Students Against Starbucks” outside Bobst Library. (Matt Petres for WSN)

Around 15 students met inside Bobst Library to deliver a petition addressed to NYU president Linda Mills on Thursday, demanding that the university cut its contract with the Starbucks location on West Fourth Street. The petition, which has garnered over 500 signatures, criticizes NYU’s licensing agreement with the on-campus location — which accepts Dining Dollars from student meal plans — and condemns the university’s relations with the corporation amid its “unrelenting union-busting campaign.” 

Kiera Glazer, a first-year and YDSA member who attended the demonstration, told WSN the group is demanding that the university remove Starbucks products from dining halls and campus markets. In the petition, the students claim the corporation has violated federal labor laws by “denying boosts in wages and benefits to unionized workers” and having a “general disregard for employees’ fundamental rights.” 

A representative for Mills met the students — which included members of various on-campus groups including NYU YDSA — at the ground floor elevators at Bobst to take the signed envelope to her office. 

“We have a lot of opportunity to see success here because our student body does really care about social issues,” Glazer said. “It’s going to be our voices that should matter with whether the university cuts ties with Starbucks or not.” 

The students requested for NYU to replace the on-campus Starbucks with a local business, and plan to curate a list of organizations with union-friendly policies to provide the university with. The group added that, if NYU finds an alternative coffee shop to replace the current Starbucks, the incoming workers experience no change in payment, employee benefits, staffing or number of working hours. 

The petition also cited the university’s number of unionized staff, faculty, administration and security officers who are requesting more direct support for Starbucks employees. It also cited NYU’s “strong landmark union contracts,” including the university’s tentative agreement with its adjunct union reached in November 2022. In 2021, NYU’s graduate student union was able to secure a new contract with the university after going on strike for three weeks. In 2015, the group became the first union of graduate students to ratify a collective bargaining agreement at a private university in the United States.

In the petition, the students reference unionization movements that began in 2021, when Starbucks Workers United began a drive and initiated over 340 pro-union votes in stores across the country. A federal administrative law judge deemed the company’s labor practices “egregious and widespread” after it denied wage boosts and benefits to unionized workers.

Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull told WSN that since 2020, the company has improved hours of work per employee at an average of 5% and increased total hourly pay by 50%.

“Our partners are at the core of all we do,” Trull said in a written statement. “While we remain longstanding advocates of civil discourse, our focus is on fulfilling our promise to offer a bridge to a better future for all partners — through competitive pay, industry-leading benefits for part-time work and our continued efforts to negotiate fair contracts for partners at stores that have chosen union representation.”

NYU YDSA formed the group Students Against Starbucks last fall as part of a larger nationwide movement among universities seeking to oust Starbucks from their college campuses. In November, students and faculty protested the corporation’s labor practices outside the Starbucks location on Astor Place during Red Cup Day.

“Our interactions with community members in the area have generally been very positive, in the sense that a lot of them are also not so happy with the presence of Starbucks,” Brandon Wu, a sophomore and member of YDSA’s organizing committee, said. “Let alone the students are very concentrated here, the community is behind it and very happy that we’re doing this.” 

Last August, Cornell University agreed to terminate its relations with Starbucks by 2025, after a court case found that the corporation reprimanded students for not working over academic breaks. 

“It’s not a question of whether NYU can do it, because obviously they can,” first-year Ruby, who requested to use their first name due to safety concerns, told WSN. “It’s about making them do it.” 

An NYU spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. NYU Eats said that they do not reveal specific information regarding how many Dining Dollars are spent at the Starbucks location on West Fourth Street. 

Graylin Lucas contributed reporting.

Update, Feb. 23: This article has been updated with a statement from a Starbucks spokesperson.

Contact Dharma Niles at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Dharma Niles
Dharma Niles, Deputy News Editor
Dharma Niles is a first-year student currently studying journalism and politics at CAS, and has yet to choose between the six different minors she'd also like to pursue. You can generally find her playing NYT games, skittering around the city with a Celsius in hand or on Instagram @dharmaniles.
Matt Petres
Matt Petres, Photo Editor
Matt Petres is a first-year studying Economics. He is from Chicago, Illinois and likes to bike and kayak. You can contact him on Instagram @matt.petres

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