Business First Look

Starbucks says it will hire 10,000 refugees worldwide (+video)

Starbucks said Sunday that it will hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, a response to President Trump's indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees and temporary travel bans.

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz speaks during the Starbucks 2016 Investor Day meeting in New York in December 2016.
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Starbucks will hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, the coffee chain announced in a letter to employees on Sunday. 

The move is a response to an executive order signed by President Trump last week that temporarily bars citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen – from entering the United States, citing concerns about terrorism. The White House has also indefinitely blocked Syrian refugees from entering the United States, and has suspended all other refugee admissions for 120 days.

In announcing the hire of thousands of refugees worldwide, along with several other measures aimed at countering change under the Trump administration, Starbucks joins a number of corporations that are taking a stand against the immigration ban amid protests in airports and cities around the world. 

"We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question," wrote Starbucks chief executive officer Howard Schultz in a statement. "These uncertain times call for different measures and communication tools than we have used in the past... I am hearing the alarm you all are sounding that the civility and human rights we have all taken for granted for so long are under attack." 

There are Starbucks stores in 75 countries around the world, Mr. Schultz noted in his statement, and more than 65 million people are recognized as refugees by the United Nations. The coffeehouse's plans to first launch it's hiring initiative in the US, where Starbucks plans to first focus its efforts on those who have served with American troops as interpreters and support personnel overseas. 

"We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world," Schultz said. "This is why we are doubling down on this commitment by working with our equity market employees as well as joint venture and licensed market partners in a concerted effort to welcome and seek opportunities for those fleeing war, violence, persecution and discrimination." 

The announcement, while lauded by opponents of the immigration ban, was not welcomed by all Starbucks customers. Some took to social media to express their disapproval of the move under the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks, with many arguing that the jobs in the US should go to American citizens and veterans rather than refugees. (Starbucks does have a program in place to support veterans and their families and has hired 8,000 veterans and military spouses since 2014, as Business Insider reports.) One commenter wrote that he felt it was inappropriate for Schultz to "[push] his political agenda through our coffee and down our throats." 

Other actions announced by Schultz on Sunday included support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the donation of millions of coffee trees to benefit families in Mexico, and reassurance to employees that they "will always have access to health insurance through Starbucks" if they are benefits eligible. 

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.