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

Opinion: NYU must cut ties with Starbucks

The university needs to part ways with the coffee corporation amidst union-busting allegations and pressure from students.
Lianna O’Grady
Starbucks on West 4th Street. (Lianna O’Grady for WSN)

NYU’s partnership with Starbucks has recently become a target of on-campus protests, as student groups criticize the company’s union violations. If the university is concerned about student complaints and wishes, NYU needs to end its contract with the Starbucks location on West Fourth Street, which accepts Dining Dollars through a licensing agreement. Parting ways with the company would make it abundantly evident that NYU opposes exploitative labor policies and is in favor of ethical work practices.

Unions like Starbucks Workers United have organized for improved pay, benefits and working conditions. Despite this, there are several accounts of Starbucks’ efforts to stop unionization at its U.S. locations, such as the company threatening employees before union voting and firing employees for participating in union initiatives. Early last year, for example, a judge found that Starbucks had violated labor laws when it denied boosts in wages — along with perks and benefits — to unionized workers. NYU must show support for these workers by cutting ties with the company that mistreats them.

In the past, students and faculty have criticized the university for its treatment of unions, most recently the researchers’ union and the contract faculty union in their struggle for formal recognition. Severing its relationship with Starbucks would be a step in the right direction that shows NYU is dedicated to collective bargaining and worker empowerment.

As a well-known university, NYU has the ability to influence other colleges and institutions around the country. Cornell University has already severed ties with Starbucks, and NYU could join the movement to encourage other universities to do the same. NYU has the potential to assist in spearheading responsible collaborations in higher education.

Concentrating only on financial measures ignores the more significant ethical issues at hand. Revenue is obviously crucial for any business, but a company’s finances shouldn’t come before shouldn’t come before the rights and welfare of its employees. The success of Starbucks’ West Fourth Street location does not excuse the company’s labor rights abuses and union busting. Even if it means ending a profitable partnership, NYU has an obligation to put fair labor practices ahead of commercial margins.

The voices of 512 students, faculty and alumni have spoken loud and clear by signing the petition: NYU must cut its contract with Starbucks. It’s not just about coffee, it’s about standing up for what’s right and aligning our actions with our values.

WSN’s Opinion section strives to publish ideas worth discussing. The views presented in the Opinion section are solely the views of the writer.

Contact Molly Koch at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Molly Koch
Molly Koch, Opinion Editor
Molly Koch is a junior in Gallatin concentrating in journalism as an art form. They’re fascinated by classical literature and its influence on the power of the written word. When they are not writing, you can find them reading their way through their endless TBR, running along the Hudson or Facetiming their dog.

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