Last year, Starbucks workers at my college organized a boycott of one of our on-campus locations, protesting the lower wages for student workers. No one was supposed to buy anything from that location for the entire day. And honestly, a lot of students kind of just…ignored it. But that was then. With hot strike summer in full swing, It's safe to say that boycott would be much more successful today.

The percentage of U.S. workers represented by a union shrunk from around 30% in 1964 to a mere 10% in 2015. But in recent years, organized labor has been making a comeback. With WGA and SAG-AFTRA currently on strike and unionization efforts surging across the country, some are calling it hot strike summer. Just this week, Cornell University delivered another win for workers rights by ending its contract with Starbucks.

Why is Cornell ending its contract with Starbucks?

Cornell announced that it will not renew its vendor contract with Starbucks after students protested the coffee chain’s alleged union-busting, Business Insider reports. In April 2022, all three of Ithaca's Starbucks locations voted to unionize, making it the first city in the U.S. to successfully unionize every Starbucks location, Ithaca Times reports. But by May 2023, Starbucks had closed all three of its Ithaca locations. Coincidence? Union organizers think not, calling the closures union busting. Starbucks claims it closed one of the stores due to staffing and facility issues, and the other two as part of an effort to transform their store portfolio, Business Insider reports.

In May 2023, Cornell students (many of whom are also former Ithaca Starbucks employees) wrote a formal resolution calling for the university to stop serving Starbucks branded products in campus dining locations and staged a sit-in at the administrative building. In July, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Starbucks had engaged in unfair labor practices by closing all three unionized Ithaca locations. The NLRB ordered Starbucks to reopen one of the closed locations and reinstate employees who worked there as of June 2022, but Starbucks has not yet reopened the location.

This week, Cornell listened to student voices and announced that it will not be renewing its vendor contract with Starbucks when it expires in 2025. According to officials, the university will "initiate an inclusive process" of selecting a new coffee vendor, Business Insider reports.

What does this mean for Starbucks?

Over 350 of Starbucks’ 9,000+ U.S. locations have successfully unionized under Starbucks Workers United. Due to Starbucks’ size and financial power, it can be hard to pressure the company into negotiations, Johnnie Kallas, director of Cornell University's Labor Action Tracker told Business Insider. But Kallas says student efforts to end university partnerships could “make a meaningful impact on Starbucks and move them toward contract negotiations.” This means student protests are more important than ever.

There’s a whopping four Starbucks locations on my college campus. And I have to admit, it’s kind of nice. But while these on-campus cafe's are great for students in desperate need of caffeine, knowledge of Starbucks’ union-busting behavior gives that Venti Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew a bitter note. Personally, I (and my wallet) would be more than happy to say goodbye to the on-campus Starbucks. There's plenty of other delicious caffeine sources, like the new Whole Foods Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Latte. Or maybe not, since Amazon has resisted Whole Foods unionization efforts. Well, all the more reason to stop by your fave cute local coffee shop. And worst comes to worst, you could always make coffee at home