Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Starbucks Not So Starry?

This week, Starbucks are celebrating their 40-year anniversary.

There are a lot of people out there who really have it in for Starbucks. Just google anti-Starbucks search words and see for yourself. I have to say that while I am not particularly expecting the company to be perfect, I am far from joining the protesters, despite having repeatedly written about the multinationals having too much power. I prefer to go to a local coffee shop, not because I dislike Starbucks, but because I want to support local traders.

But here’s the deal. The coffee must be good, the ambiance conducive and comfortable to write, the bathrooms clean and the staff happy and interactive. If I go to a local coffee shop and find this, I will stay loyal. In Berkeley we take our coffee seriously, and so do the local coffee shops. But when challenged in certain areas of San Francisco and on the road, I often turn to the green goddess of Starbucks or the solid, reliable Peets coffee.

I have read several books about the special Starbucks mentality and embraced it in training my own staff and as a model for creating an environment and service to our students. I have written here positively on several occasions about Starbucks. I have defended their Fair Trade policy and complimented their coffee grounds for compost initiative.

But there are a lot of people out there who hate, yes I said hate, Starbucks. Try this website (you really only need to read its name) or the You Tube video below.

I was surprised to see the allegations about Starbucks heavy-handedness against attempts for a workers union. In The Accidental Activist, the multinational is the bad guy and my heroes admonish them for exactly what is being claimed here.

Starbucks supporters: what do you say about the company being anti-trade union? I need to hear that they are wrong. It will be easier than changing my drinking habits.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/



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2 thoughts on “Starbucks Not So Starry?

  1. I, too, patronize local businesses whenever possible even knowing the service, ambiance, and product quality will be uneven. I feel pretty much as you do about Starbucks and I can add a couple of favorable comments. For this traveling man, their free wifi has been a real plus. And I agree they seem to be a model of courteous, attentive staff.

    I like the green example they set with the coffee grounds re-use.

    I hope Starbucks’ apparently enlightened corporate citizenship extends to their employee relations.


    Ride with me and Lightnin’ on our Year on the Road at http://allevenson.wordpress.com/

  2. We have a garden and compost and at one time, I used to go to Starbucks to pick up the free grounds to add to the compost.

    Coffee grounds are a good addition to compost.

    As for bashing Starbucks for being anti-union, I haven’t heard of that before.

    I know that Wal-Mart has an allergy to unions and will close stores to avoid them.

    Costco does not have a union shop but they pay their employees much better than Wal-Mart, provide good medical and other benefits including a retirement package.

    Even if a multi-national is non-union or anti-union, I think we need to consider each case individually.

    If the company treats its employees well, is a union needed?

    By the way, my dad was a big coffee drinker. While growing up, the smell of fresh coffee brewing started each day but coffee drinking never caught on for me.

    So, if Starbucks is anti-union, how do they measure up treating employees–any complaints there?

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