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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Griffee: Boycott Starbucks, Buy Local

There is no reason for Utahns to still be purchasing Starbucks coffee while residing in a state with a flourishing local coffee scene. 
Sarah Karr
Owner of Sunset Coffee Shelby Coleman interacts with her customers while making their drinks in Sandy, Utah on April 21, 2023. (Photo by Sarah Karr | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


Salt Lake City visitors are often surprised to find a local coffee scene thriving against all odds. Although our beehive state is known for being home to the largest Mormon population in the United States — a religion that does not allow its members to consume coffee — Salt Lake City ranks 12th in local coffee shops per capita out of every major city in the United States.

There are over 90 local coffee shops in Salt Lake County alone.

These coffee shops not only provide excellent coffee, but they act as important community spaces, fostering culture and connection in Salt Lake City. Unlike monotonous massive coffee corporations, Utah’s local coffee shops offer unique atmospheres and charming environments, creating a space where people enjoy gathering.

However, even with this abundance of local coffee shops, Utah still has 101 Starbucks locations. Amidst boycotts in support of Palestinian liberation and union workers, there is no reason for Utahns to still be purchasing Starbucks coffee while residing in a state with such a flourishing local coffee scene.

Starbucks is Unethical 

Starbucks has faced scrutiny since 1998, when they were first boycotted after former CEO Howard Schultz received the Israel 50th Anniversary Tribute Award for his work promoting ties between Israel and the United States. These initial boycotts caused Starbucks to eventually dissolve its close relationship with Israel in 2003.

However, public scrutiny has resurfaced after the October 7 revolt in Gaza put Israel’s occupation of Palestine back into mainstream news and public consciousness. Before October 7, Starbucks was already facing criticism for harsh union busting.

The company is refusing to bargain with union representatives from 163 cafes, continuing its unethical pattern of anti-community and anti-human rights behavior.

Earlier this year, these two issues of workers and human rights came to a head when Starbucks’ union members publicly supported Palestinian liberation in a now-deleted X post. This prompted the company to file a lawsuit against the Starbucks worker’s union, referring to the post as “reckless and reprehensible.”

This move viciously combined the coffee corporation’s resistance against their workers having basic rights and their support of Palestinian occupation and ethnic cleansing. This should be more than enough cause to motivate any remotely politically conscious person to join the Starbucks boycott.

Boycotts Work

One of the most successful boycotts within the past 30 years was the 1995 Shell boycott. This Greenpeace-led movement called for people to stop purchasing all Shell products after they were found dumping oil into the North Sea. The spilled oil was estimated to be up to 216 tons, covering an area of 37 square kilometers.

After two months of mounting protests, Shell finally stopped dumping oil. This campaign even led to changes in legislation. In 1995, European nations agreed to ban dumping offshore steel oil rigs at the Oslo and Paris Commission.

Boycotts have been effective in the past and they will be in the future.

We are extremely close to reaching similar levels of political change triggered by the Starbucks boycott. The lawsuit filed against their union ignited public anger, with activists refusing to spend their hard-earned money at a corporation that suppresses worker’s rights and supports genocide.

In their last report, Wall Street revealed that Starbucks was experiencing its slowest sales growth in years. According to the New York Post, the coffee conglomerate has suffered a $12 billion market value loss since December.

Now, more than ever, it is critical to use mindfulness about your consumer dollars. The impact of your money combined with the power of community organization is the most powerful tool that Americans have for creating political change.

It’s Not Just Coffee

A Starbucks boycott worked once when the public successfully pressured the company to cut ties with Israel in 2003. It will work again.

Salt Lake City is full of local coffee shops. On the University of Utah campus alone, we have Two Creek, Brio Coffee, Publik Coffee Roasters and Mom’s Cafe.  Just a five-minute Trax ride away from campus you’ll find Salt Lake Roasting Company, Coffee Break, Cafe on 1st, Coffee Garden and Kahvé.

There is no excuse for choosing to give your money to a harmful corporation when there are dozens of alternatives. The significance of local coffee shops goes far beyond a cup of coffee.

Emily Potts, owner of Sugar House Coffee, spoke to the Chronicle about why her business provides Salt Lake City with so much more than just coffee. She describes Sugar House Coffee as, “a voice for many that haven’t found their voice yet or can’t use their voice at this time.”

“We aren’t just a coffee shop. We are a community. We get to celebrate our customers’ highs and hold them during their lows,” she said. “Just this week a long time regular was preparing for finals in another state. He hopped in his car and drove straight to Sugar House Coffee.”

Choosing alternatives to Starbucks not only funds local businesses but also supports community spaces in our city. Supporting these local businesses means supporting the entirety of Salt Lake City. One of the most honorable things you can do with your consumer dollars is to help your city flourish into a community with character and culture.

“You keep money in our community. You keep jobs in our community,” stated Potts.

Local coffee has provided Salt Lake City with much-needed safe spaces. This is especially true for the secular and left-leaning population. Sugar House Coffee and Greenhouse Effect host open mic nights that support local art and comedy. These events have grown a unique community surrounding them, with regulars attending and performing.

“[Sugar House Coffee] provides an opportunity to meet others within your community that isn’t a bar or a church,” said Potts. “It brings people together with a common interest. The community within a local coffee shop is something special … It is a lifelong commitment of mine to make sure everyone in our shop feels seen and loved.”

Sugar House Coffee also sells local art and is a venue for the Sugar House Art Walk which occurs on the second Friday of every month. Jack Mormon Coffee, Tea Zaanti and Alchemy Coffee are just some of the many local coffee shops which support local musicians, acting as a regular venue for live music nights.

The consumer decisions you make with your money have the power to create change. Choose to support your city by buying local coffee instead of supporting Israel by buying Starbucks coffee. In the words of Potts, “Community over profit … we are so grateful for those that commit to supporting us.”


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About the Contributor
Sarah Karr
Sarah Karr, Photographer
Sarah Karr was born and raised in Springfield, Oregon, and is attending the University of Utah with a major is communication and a minor in digital photography. Sarah is working with the Chronicle to improve her photojournalism skills and gain some experience in the newsroom. In her free time, Sarah likes to play online games, read and tend to her plants.

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