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Starbucks Fires Back at Unfair Criticism Over Refugee Hiring Initiative

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Opponents say the chain ought to be hiring veterans instead — something it already does

Starbucks logo in store window Christopher Irwin/Flickr

Starbucks has once again found itself the target of criticism from conservatives — but this time the famously progressive Frappuccino slinger is being attacked for all the wrong reasons, and the chain isn’t taking it sitting down.

In response to the Trump administration’s hastily implemented (and arguably unconstitutional) immigration ban, Starbucks founder Howard Schultz announced Monday in a letter that the company will hire 10,000 refugees in the next five years. This move didn’t sit well with a vocal group of Trump supporters, who claim Starbucks ought to instead be giving those jobs to American veterans, and have pledged to boycott the chain.

But if that angry mob had put down the pitchforks for a moment to do a cursory Google search, they would have quickly realized that Starbucks has been actively hiring veterans for years: 8,800 of them since 2013, to be precise. Starbucks also has an internal veterans group, the Starbucks Armed Forces Network, that provides support for its current and former military employees and their spouses.

That group has now fired back at the unfair criticisms being hurled at the company with an open letter, the full text of which can be found below:

Dear Starbucks customers,

We write to you today as representatives of the thousands of veterans and spouses who currently work for Starbucks Coffee Company, and to express our gratitude for your business as well as to address misinformation that has been circulating since our company announced their commitment to hire 10,000 refugees around the world.

Starbucks has received an outpouring of support for the actions our CEO Howard outlined. The company has also received criticism. While much of this discussion has been healthy debate, the false and inaccurate statements about Starbucks commitment to hiring veterans and spouses are deeply troubling to those of us who served. We’ve seen first-hand the hard work and dedication of our fellow employees to transform Starbucks into one of the preeminent veteran-friendly companies in America.

We the veterans of Starbucks would like to set the record straight.

As our armed forces drew down in 2013, veterans at Starbucks asked the company to consider hiring more service members as they transitioned from active duty and sought their first civilian job. We also asked the company to extend this effort to military spouses because we knew first-hand that their support made our service possible.

In November 2013, Howard and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates announced Starbucks commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.

Perhaps more importantly, our boss not only launched this initiative but he inspired the company to become one of the leading corporate veteran advocates and supporters.

Howard and his wife Sheri visited military bases to get to know our nation’s service members. They poured substantial personal financial resources into their own family foundation to design plans for transitioning service members. Starbucks established military family stores at over 30 bases around the country. Howard encouraged Starbucks senior leaders to visit our military bases and get to know our military on a personal level, knowing it would lead them to hire more veterans and their spouses. And much, much more.

Less than four years into the commitment, Starbucks has hired over 8,800 veterans and spouses and counting.

Without question we will reach the 10,000 goal early, and we will keep going. None of this would have been possible without our boss’s very personal commitment. Howard didn’t just authorize our veteran initiative, he led it.

And so you can imagine our reaction when we read criticism of our company and of our CEO suggesting that instead of a commitment to refugees, we should instead hire 10,000 veterans.

We respect honest debate and the freedom of expression. Many of us served to protect that very right. Some of our brothers and sisters died protecting it. But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts, Starbucks is already there.

We want to thank you as our customers for your business. Without your support, our veterans initiatives are not possible. Every day, there are thousands of veterans, reservists and military spouses working at Starbucks stores serving you. You can find many of us proudly wearing American flags emblazoned upon our green aprons. And we look forward to continuing to serve you in the days, months and years to come.

With great respect,

The Men and Women of Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN)

This isn’t the first time that Starbucks’ progressive policies have made it the target of boycotts from conservatives: Last holiday season, the chain’s seasonal coffee cups sparked outrage for not being Christmas-y enough. Then, Trump supporters decided to protest Starbucks by making baristas write the name “Trump” on their coffee cups — apparently glossing over the point that boycotting a company usually means not spending money there.

A Message to Customers From Starbucks Armed Forces Network [Official]
Trump Supporters Are Boycotting Starbucks Again [E]
Starbucks Commits to Hiring 10,000 Refugees in Five Years [E]
More Starbucks Coverage [E]

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Watch: Donald Trump's refugee ban, explained