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Starbucks refugee hiring plan gets support from NYC residents

Starbucks received backlash from customers after it said

Starbucks received backlash from customers after it said it would hire 10,000 refugees in response to President Donald Trump's immigration travel ban, but New Yorkers are sticking by the chain. Above, the exterior of a Starbucks on 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth avenues on Jan. 30, 2017. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

A political battle is brewing in Starbucks locations across the country — and New Yorkers say they’re standing by their baristas.

City customers said they applauded the coffeehouse chain’s announcement that it would hire 10,000 refugees after President Donald Trump signed a controversial ban on all refugees for 120 days and on citizens from seven majority-Muslim nations for 90 days.

And New York customers said they’ll be ordering Frappuccinos from their local shop even more often to defy social media commenters calling for a Starbucks boycott.

“New York is such a powerful city. So many people have the dream about coming here and when they succeed it sends a message,” said Emma Silverton, 19, a daily customer from Brooklyn.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made the announcement Sunday night in a letter to his employees that heavily criticized Trump’s moves.

In addition to the plan to hire the refugees over five years in its shops in 75 countries, Starbucks said it supported so-called Dreamers — young people who were brought into the United States illegally and have grown up here — would offer health care options to all of its employees and would “build bridges and not walls,” with Mexico.

“In the face of recent events around the world, let me assure you that we will stay true to our values and do everything we can possibly do to support and invest in every partner’s well-being while taking the actions that are squarely within our ability to control,” Schultz wrote.

Several New York Starbucks employees declined to comment. A representative for the Industrial Workers of the World, the union that represents the city’s Starbucks workers, also declined to comment about the hiring announcement, but noted the union accepts all Starbucks employees regardless of background.

Within minutes of Schultz’s announcement, angry Twitter and Facebook users began spreading the hashtag #boycottstarbucks in protest of the chain’s solidarity. By Monday morning, the tag was at the top of the trends on both social media outlets and some of the users began to harp on the customers who continued to eat there.

Starbucks fans like West Sider Khalid Syed, 36, scoffed at the virtual protest, noting that there were many benefits to hiring refugees.

The Indian immigrant, who spends time at Starbucks during his breaks from his IT consultant job, said the refugees would help boost the economy and aid their families.

“They wouldn’t depend on welfare and they’d be out working instead of staying at home,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Sarah Strickland, 32, a fellow Starbucks regular, agreed.

“This whole country has been built by people who came from other countries,” said the Upper West Side resident. “Why should we deny anybody that chance, especially if they’re going to get a job?”

Jerome FitzGibbons, 53, of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, who frequents the coffee shop near his office in Midtown, also supported the company’s policy but questioned some of the business strategy behind the hiring.

“It is a goodwill gesture and in the end of the day they have to move business,” he said. “But overall it’s good for New York. These people need the work.”

Since Trump issued his ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority nations, several companies have spoken out against the ban and pledged support to those affected.

  • Lyft said it would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit alleging that the executive order is unconstitutional and said it raised more than $24 million from online donations last weekend.
  • Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Mark Fields told its employees it wouldn’t support the ban.
  • Microsoft said it would offer “legal advice and assistance” to 76 employees affected by the ban.
  • Apple CEO Tim Cook told his employees that the company didn’t accept the ban and would protect its employees.
  • Google urged its employees with green cards and visas from the affected countries to cancel any travel plans. CEO Sundar Pichai, who said 200 employees are affected, donated $2 million to refugee charities.
  • Netflix CEO Reed Hastings posted a status on his Facebook page that criticized the ban contending it would hurt his employees around the world.
  • Airbnb co-CEO Brian Cesky announced that refugees would receive free temporary housing.

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