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Starbucks Faces Boycott After Pledging to Hire Refugees

Jan 30, 2017

Starbucks has found itself in the middle of another turbulent tweetstorm.

The coffee giant on Sunday made major news when outgoing CEO Howard Schultz pledged that the company would look to hire 10,000 refugees in its stores worldwide, including some who have helped the U.S. military, in response to President Donald Trump's executive order to bar entry of refugees from several predominantly Muslim countries. The statement from Schultz—who also sought to reassure his employees after Trump's immigration ban—was one of many public statements made by high-profile CEOs. The tech industry has been especially vocal and executives from other industries are just now starting to weigh in.

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Andrew Kelly — Reuters
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But Starbucks (sbux) found itself in a tweetstorm that could have been seen from a mile away. #BoycottStarbucks was the highest trending topic on Twitter (twtr) on Monday morning. As usually with these divisive topics, a group of Twitter users are pledging to stop supporting Starbucks, while those supportive of the refugee hiring news say they will buy coffee and food from the restaurant chain to support the move.

Here are some examples of what Twitter users were saying on both sides of the issue.

Starbucks, it should be noted, is already in the process of hiring 10,000 veterans and active duty spouses—part of a pledge it made back in 2013 to achieve that goal by 2018. And in the statement Starbucks issued on Sunday, it said the following: "And we will start this effort here in the U.S. by making the initial focus of our hiring efforts on those individuals who have served with U.S. troops as interpreters and support personnel in the various countries where our military has asked for such support."

The coffee company already found itself the target of a social media boycott last year, as a #TrumpCup protest surfaced for a few days after a viral video showing a white male Trump supporter yelling at a barista for unfair, anti-white discrimination fueled that campaign. #BoycottStarbucks has been a hashtag that has floated around on social media channels for some time now.

And while other consumer brands have found themselves in the midst of social media boycotts—including shoemaker New Balance and Big Food makers like PepsiCo (pep) and Kellogg (k)—Starbucks seems to be a perennial target. That could be because Schultz has never demurred when it comes to talking about issues and topics that could be seen as divisive to some. Some cultural stances he has backed include support for marriage equality and a call for open discussions about race at Starbucks stores (the latter movement was quickly scrapped).

The boycotts aren't exactly working—at least not yet. U.S. sales at Starbucks keeps rising even amid a tough competitive environment for restaurant chains.

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