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USAC passes resolution calling on university to end contracts with Starbucks

A sign in Starbucks is pictured. The Undergraduate Students Association Council unanimously approved a resolution calling the university to end contracts with Starbucks, citing labor violations. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Aimee Zhang

Dec. 5, 2023 8:08 p.m.

Correction: The original version of this article’s headline incorrectly stated that the Undergraduate Students Association Council passed a referendum calling on the university to end contracts with Starbucks. In fact, USAC passed a resolution calling on the university to end contracts with Starbucks.

This post was updated Dec. 13 at 10:36 p.m.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council unanimously passed a resolution Nov. 7 calling for the university to cut all contracts with Starbucks.

The resolution called on the Associated Students UCLA Board of Directors to publish a statement saying they would not renew leases for Starbucks locations on-campus and would terminate existing agreements where possible. The resolution stated that it was proposed in response to the National Labor Relations Board filing over 80 complaints of violations of federal labor law and over 500 unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks.

The council modeled its resolution after a pre-existing resolution from the UC Student Association Board of Directors, which had already unanimously adopted a resolution in May, in support of Starbucks Workers United, a union of workers for the coffee chain.

USAC External Vice President Eva Jussim said she sponsored the resolution to bring the issue to the attention of ASUCLA, which has the authority to terminate and avoid renewing existing contracts.

In an emailed statement, an ASUCLA spokesperson said the resolution has not been referred to one of their committees for review and that USAC members have not met with them since the resolution’s passing. They added that ASUCLA coffee houses, including the one in the UCLA Anderson School of Management, are not directly operated by Starbucks.

“ASUCLA does not operate a Starbucks corporate retail, franchise or licensed store on campus,” they said in the statement. “None of ASUCLA’s coffeehouses are Starbucks-operated.”

Klara Daniaud, a third-year political science transfer student, said she was fired Aug. 30 after requesting to transfer from working at a Starbucks location in Sunnyvale, California, to one near UCLA. She added that she felt her termination was retaliation for her involvement in unionizing the Starbucks store she used to work at in Sunnyvale.

“My management was under the impression that I’d be quitting for school because they knew I was transferring, and when I then didn’t, they fired me,” Daniaud said. “I can only presume it’s because they didn’t want me to organize this non-union store.”

Daniaud also said the Starbucks location she worked at in Sunnyvale participated in an illegal union-busting campaign. She added that this included firing union workers, withholding pay and benefits and threatening workers.

“My hours were cut pretty routinely. I would get scheduled outside my availability,” Daniaud said. “I was generally under a microscope at all times.”

David Ramirez, a fourth-year geography/environmental studies student, said in a Starbucks Workers United strategy call Nov. 9 that he also worked shifts at Starbucks, which he said involved difficult working conditions.

“I would work the closing shift and then sleep for four hours and wake up for the morning shift because we were always so understaffed,” Ramirez said during the call. “During COVID-19 outbreaks, I remember having to work shifts where half of our staff were quarantined, and I had to work twice as hard while being paid the same wage.”

Ramirez, who is now a student leader at UCLA advocating for the rights of Starbucks workers, said during the strategy call that the USAC resolution was important because college students are an important customer demographic for Starbucks. He added that he hopes advocacy at UCLA will force Starbucks to come to the bargaining table.

Jussim, who is also a fourth-year political science student, added that she feels UCLA has also not been transparent with her about the university’s ability to cut existing contractors.

“UCLA has not complied with the Freedom of Information Act requests … made to obtain any contracts that the university has with Starbucks,” Jussim said.

Nevertheless, Jussim said she believes that the next set of actions after passing the resolution in USAC is to take the resolution to ASUCLA. She added that USAC is an advisory entity to ASUCLA and that she hopes to provide ASUCLA with recommendations on operational decisions regarding whatever contracts it may have with Starbucks.

Beyond ASUCLA, Jussim also said she encourages students to boycott Starbucks and get involved with Starbucks Workers United.

“Getting involved with Starbucks Workers United is a great way for students to get involved, not only to learn about what is going on but to support … other students in this issue,” Jussim said. “I think if students can get involved with them and amplify their numbers, that will only strengthen the need for Starbucks to listen to its workers and bargain in good faith.”

Jussim also said she thought the issue of workers’ rights is an important part of student advocacy and that she encourages students to offer their support through flyering, telling workers about their rights, picketing and protesting.

“It’s our responsibility as a generation to fight for a better economy that balances the scales of power between huge corporations like Starbucks and workers and students like us,” she said.

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Aimee Zhang
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