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College students demand schools cut ties with Starbucks ahead of Red Cup Day

Students at Georgetown University and other college campuses are organizing to protest Starbucks on Red Cup Day. The Red Cup Rebellion is growing.

Starbucks Red Cup Day is an annual event where the coffee chain gives out holiday-themed reusable cups, and it's set to take place on November 16. A week before the event, Elinor Clark and her fellow members of Georgetown University's Students Against Starbucks group gathered in a classroom in Healy Hall, a National Historic Landmark. The group is part of a larger labor movement that has swept across more than 360 Starbucks stores and is set to hit hundreds of college campuses on Red Cup Day.

Starbucks Workers United plan to strike at Starbucks stores on Red Cup Day, and college students are planning their own actions, including boycotts, strikes, and picket lines. This is part of what the union and student organizers are calling the Red Cup Rebellion. More than 300 people RSVPed for a virtual organizing meeting, representing more than 70 college campuses across the country.

Cary Tilton, a union organizer with Workers United-SEIU, opened the meeting by sharing his experiences on the picket lines for the Hollywood writers strike. Starbucks has around 300 locations on college campuses across the country, and some students are looking to cut ties with the company. They want their colleges to do the same.

Students are demanding that their universities end their contracts with Starbucks. For example, Cornell students sent more than 1,000 emails to the university president, sold union-made coffee in front of a Starbucks location to raise money for the workers' strike fund, and even staged a takeover of the school's main administration building. As a result, Cornell announced it wouldn't renew its contract with Starbucks in August.

David Ramirez, a fourth-year student at UCLA, worked at Starbucks for two and a half years throughout the pandemic and is now fighting against the company. UCLA's student government has voted unanimously to approve a resolution demanding the administration cut ties with Starbucks.

Elinor Clark, who started working at Starbucks at age 16 and led a union effort at her store in Mill Valley, California, is helping to circulate a petition calling for the rebranding of a Starbucks franchise on campus and calling for the university to divest its nearly $5 million in Starbucks stock. Each student-led campaign is unique to their college campus, but they all hope to take action on Red Cup Day to remove Starbucks from college campuses. The labor movement has grown in the past few years, and public support for labor unions hit 71% in 2022.

Fiona Naughton, a 19-year-old sophomore at Georgetown, notes that progressive companies like Starbucks may not match their actions. The organizing call aimed to let students know that they can take action too. The Starbucks Workers United website helps students find Red Cup Rebellion events at their campus, and workers encouraged students to create their own event if they didn't see one for their school. Clark wants students to realize the importance of the labor movement and how this current effort stands out in history. She feels that they are writing the history books.

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