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Cornell will be terminating its partnership with Starbucks following a recent National Labor Relations Board ruling.

August 16, 2023

Cornell to End Partnership With Starbucks by June 2025

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Cornell will be terminating its partnership with Starbucks no later than the expiration of its current contract, Student Assembly President Patrick Kuehl ’24 announced in an Aug. 16 email to the student body. The contract is set to expire in June 2025. 

Cornell is currently a participant in the “We Proudly Serve Starbucks” program, which allows its cafés and dining halls on campus to serve Starbucks products.

The decision to end the partnership comes following a National Labor Relations Board ruling that found Starbucks punished pro-unionization Cornell students who were Starbucks employees by denying them leave over Cornell’s academic breaks during the unionization process at Ithaca’s three locations, among other violations. 

Kuehl said in an interview with The Sun that the decision will not take effect immediately, but will take effect by the contract’s expiration at the latest.

“You can expect to see that change in the coming months,” Kuehl said. 

Kuehl said the University and Starbucks have multiple contracts with different stipulations, which will take time to sort through. However, the University will be working with the S.A.’s dining committee to find “suitable alternatives” for Starbucks.

Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina concurred with Kuehl, saying Cornell’s process to select a new coffee vendor will be “inclusive” and built in consultation with the Student Assembly.

“Cornell Dining does not intend to serve Starbucks Coffee in its café venues after the current agreement with the company expires in 2025,” Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina said. “As President Martha Pollack mentioned in her response to a related Student Assembly (SA) resolution, Cornell Dining — in consultation with the Student Assembly Dining Services Committee — will initiate an inclusive process to select its next coffee product offerings and to ensure a smooth transition to a new vendor in 2025.”

The University made the decision to begin the process of breaking the contract on July 31 and notified the S.A. at that time, according to Kuehl’s email. Kuehl said the 16-day delay between its announcement to the S.A. and Kuehl’s announcement to the student body was due to a desire to perfect the media release, which he crafted with vice president of external affairs Suraj Parikh ’26 and interim undesignated representative Clyde Lederman ’26.

The University made the decision to break the contract without first consulting the S.A., Kuehl said. However, Kuehl said the S.A. was in agreement with the administration on the issue and supported its decision.

“Everyone was pretty unanimously on board with the fact that Starbucks broke the law,” Kuehl said. “And Cornell doesn’t support labor violations.” In 2008, Cornell ended its business relationship with the athletic apparel company Russell due to its apparent anti-union practices in Honduras and ended its apparel licensing agreement with Nike over the corporation’s refusal to comply with a labor code of conduct vetted by the University in 2017.

Advocating for Cornell to terminate its Starbucks contract since May, Starbucks Workers United leader Evan Sunshine ’24 told The Sun he is pleased with the University’s decision.  

“We look forward to working with the administration to find a new vendor,” Sunshine said.

Jack Dobosh ’25, a former Starbucks employee during the unionization process and later a union member, agreed with Sunshine, saying he was proud the University was standing up for him and his coworkers.

“I’m happy to hear that the University is backing us up and is on our side,” Dobosh said.

Starbucks has not responded to an immediate request for comment.

Jonathan Mong is a reporter from the Cornell Daily Sun working on The Sun’s summer fellowship at The Ithaca Voice.

Update Wednesday Aug. 16, 7:27 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a comment from the University. In addition, the article has been updated to reflect that Dobosh was not part of the group advocating for Cornell to terminate its Starbucks contract and only worked for Starbucks during the unionization process. The Sun regrets this error.