In light of union criticisms of Starbucks’ treatment of workers, over 200 students, faculty and staff are calling for Georgetown University and its dining subcontractor Aramark to end its affiliation with the chain.
Starbucks has received backlash from its employees for violating federal labor laws. In March 2023, a judge from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency that enforces workers’ labor protections, ruled that Starbucks illegally retaliated against workers seeking to form a union, and in September, a different judge found that Starbucks’ policy of increasing wages and benefits for nonunion employees went against labor laws.
Student group Georgetown Students Against Starbucks organized a petition demanding that Georgetown end its Aramark contract for the Starbucks location in the Leavey Center and divest from the brand of which it owns nearly $5 million in stock.
Elijah Ward (CAS ’26), a member of Students Against Starbucks, said the campaign aims to make Georgetown a more labor-friendly campus.
“Our most primary aim is to get Starbucks off of Georgetown’s campus,” Ward told The Hoya. “That is because of Starbucks’ egregious and widespread violations of federal labor laws, which have resulted in the unnecessary intimidation and suffering of workers who are trying to make the workplace a better place.”
The petition, which is addressed to University President John J. DeGioia (CAS ’79, GRD ’95), also calls for the university to remove all Starbucks licensing and branding and replace the Leavey Center location with another coffee brand without disrupting pay, benefits or hours for currently contracted employees of the location.
Connor Henry (SFS ’26), another petition organizer, said the campaign found it important to consult with Georgetown workers before launching the petition.
“Really making sure that we had their buy-in and support from their union and everything before we went ahead,” Henry said.
A university spokesperson said Georgetown’s association with the campus Starbucks is through Aramark, which licenses Starbucks branding and products to provide at universities.
“Georgetown does not have a contract with Starbucks. Aramark, the university’s primary food service provider, manages most of the retail and residential dining operations on campus. Aramark has a license agreement with Starbucks, and union-represented Aramark dining employees staff the Leavey Center Starbucks location,” the spokesperson wrote to The Hoya.
Student organizations including Georgetown University College Democrats, Young Democratic Socialists of America and the Georgetown Coalition for Workers’ Rights have also signed on in support of the petition.
Elinor Clark (CAS ’27), another member of Students Against Starbucks, said Students Against Starbucks has mobilized because they believe Starbucks’ treatment of workers is incompatible with the university’s Jesuit values — in particular, cura personalis, or care for the whole person.
“Starbucks has violated federal labor law hundreds of times. The NLRB has consistently ruled in favor of the workers. We want to show Georgetown that we do not support union busting and abuse and mistreatment of employees,” Clark told The Hoya.
Clark said the group was inspired by advocacy efforts at Cornell University, where student protests and Starbucks violation of labor law resulted in the university’s decision not to renew its contract with Starbucks.
The movement against Starbucks on Georgetown’s campus also intersects with a growing national labor movement, according to Ward.
“This is not just a Georgetown thing. It’s around the U.S.,” Ward said. “Especially coming off the labor summer and a lot of the workers rising up against what they believe is wrong in their workplaces.”
Ward said the organization has been working with unions like Starbucks Workers United, which represents over 9,000 Starbucks baristas, supervisors and managers at more than 360 stores nationwide, since September to engage campus workers and national organizers before beginning on-campus outreach in October.
Ward said Students Against Starbucks hopes to meet with DeGioia and push for further action at the administrative level.
“We want to be able to meet with administration and have a response for them to understand that students are mobilized against this, and they want to see a change,” Ward said.
Ward said the campaign reflects the broader importance of student movements on campus.
“Student organizing is at the core of this campus,” Ward said. “I hope that Georgetown recognizes the importance of students not being okay with what Starbucks is doing.”