Consumer, environmental, and social justice activists are protesting in front of Starbucks coffee shops in over 100US cities today. Coordinated by the Organic Consumers Association, the protests coincide with Starbucks’ annualshareholders meeting in Seattle.
The protests are designed to call attention to a number of issues, including Starbucks’ use of genetically engineeredingredients in their brand-name products, as well as the company’s refusal to brew and seriously promote Fair Tradecoffee.
Largely due to pressure from the San Francisco-based human rights organization Global Exchange, Starbucks agreed lastyear to sell Fair Trade coffee beans in its stores. Fair Trade certified coffee is guaranteed to have been grownwithout exploiting farmers in the poor countries that produce most of the world’s coffee. The deal was hailed as thefirst time the fair trade movement influenced the mass market in the US, previously being limited to a smattering ofspecialty stores and coffees.
But the progress pales in comparison to Europe, where consumers can buy a range of food products with fair tradelabels, including coffee, tea, chocolate, honey, and bananas, and sales of fair trade coffee represented 7% of theUK’s ground coffee market in 1999.
Two weeks ago Starbucks announced the opening of its first store in Zurich, Switzerland, which is also its firstretail location in continental Europe. Starbucks plans to announce its entry into at least six countries incontinental Europe in the next 12 to 24 months. The company has already opened more than 170 stores in the UnitedKingdom, and plans to open at least 650 stores in Europe by the end of 2003.
So today, on the day that activists launch a new international campaign against Starbucks and on the eve of thecompany’s entry into Europe, we will look at all levels of the Starbucks production cycle, from the plantations inGuatemala where coffee is grown, to the roasting factories in the US, to the stores where coffee is brewed and sold,which have blanketed communities across the country.
- Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association.
- Naomi Klein, syndicated columnist and author of ??No Logo.
- Dennis Smith, of the independent non-profit COVERCOS, the Commission for the Verification of Codes ofConduct, speaking from Guatemala City, Guatemala.
- Renee Jankowitz, organizer with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE), local 286, speakingfrom Seattle.
- Reverend Billy (Bill Talen)