ITHACA, N.Y.—Cornell University will be terminating its partnership with Starbucks no later than the expiration of its current contract in June 2025, Student Assembly President Patrick Kuehl announced in an Aug. 16 email to the student body.
The contract, which is based on Cornell’s participation in the “We Proudly Serve Starbucks” program that allows Starbucks to sell products in several places on Cornell’s campus, is set to expire in just under two years. Cornell University has confirmed the decision to The Ithaca Voice.
The decision to end the partnership comes following a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that found Starbucks punished pro-unionization Cornell students who were working at Starbucks in Ithaca. Specifically, NLRB Administrative Law Judge Arthur Amchan determined that Starbucks targeted students by denying them leave over Cornell’s academic breaks during the unionization process at Ithaca’s three locations, among many other violations that Amchan found against Starbucks.
Kuehl said in an interview with The Ithaca Voice and The Cornell Daily Sun the decision will not take effect immediately, though the school has previously said it would take several months to implement a vendor change on campus.
“You can expect to see that change in the coming months,” Kuehl said.
Kuehl said the University and Starbucks have multiple contracts with different stipulations, which will take time to sort through. However, the University will be working with the SA’s dining committee to find “suitable alternatives” for Starbucks.
“Cornell Dining does not intend to serve Starbucks Coffee in its café venues after the current agreement with the company expires in 2025,” said Joel Malina, Cornell Vice President of University Relations, in a statement. “As President Martha Pollack mentioned in her response to a related Student Assembly (SA) resolution, Cornell Dining — in consultation with the Student Assembly Dining Services Committee — will initiate an inclusive process to select its next coffee product offerings and to ensure a smooth transition to a new vendor in 2025.”
The University made the decision to begin the process of breaking the contract on July 31 and notified the SA at that time, according to Kuehl’s email. Kuehl said the 16-day delay between its announcement to the SA and Kuehl’s announcement to the student body was due to a desire to perfect the media release, which he crafted with vice president of external affairs Suraj Parikh and interim undesignated representative Clyde Lederman, who is running for Ithaca Common Council.
“People are getting transitioned into things for the school year,” Kuehl said. “Internships are ending — we all have lives outside of this stuff.”
The university made the decision to not renew the contract without first consulting the Student Assembly, Kuehl said. However, Kuehl said the SA was in agreement with the administration on the issue and supported its decision.
“Everyone was pretty unanimously on board with the fact that Starbucks broke the law,” Kuehl said. “And Cornell doesn’t support labor violations.”
Cornell students who also work for Starbucks expressed their approval of the decision as well.
“We are very pleased with Cornell’s decision to terminate its relationship with Starbucks, and we look forward to working with the administration to find a new vendor,” said Evan Sunshine, a current Cornell student who was a vocal leader of the Starbucks unionization movement in Ithaca before the Collegetown location was closed.
“I’m happy to hear that the university is backing us up and is on our side,” said Cornell junior Jack Dobosh, another Starbucks worker who lost his job when the Collegetown location shut down.
Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment.
Jonathan Mong is a reporter from The Cornell Daily Sun working on The Sun’s summer fellowship at The Ithaca Voice.