March 20, 2001
The Organic Consumers Association held a Day of Action against Starbucks Coffee Houses across the US in almost 100 cities. The protest coincided with Starbucks annual shareholders meeting in Seattle.
Actions took place in at least six cities in Michigan including Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Detroit, East Lansing, Kalamazoo and Traverse City.
CONSUMERS DEMANDED STARBUCKS REMOVE BOVINE GROWTH HORMONE (rBGH) AND OTHER GENETICALLY ENGINEERED INGREDIENTS FROM THE COMPANY'S BRAND-NAME PRODUCTS, START BREWING AND SERIOUSLY PROMOTING FAIR TRADE COFFEE, AND IMPROVE THE WAGES AND WORKING CONDITIONS OF COFFEE PLANTATION WORKERS. THIS IS PART OF A NATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO DRIVE GENETICALLY ENGINEERED FOODS AND BEVERAGES OFF THE MARKET AND TO PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE, EQUITABLE AND ORGANIC FARMING PRACTICES.
Ronnie Cummins (218) 226-4164 email@example.com
Simon Harris (510) 525-7054 firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Bohlen (202) 783-7400 x 251 Ibohlen@foe.org
From Ann Arbor:
10-15 activists from a range of backgrounds (high schoolers,
community activist types, student labor groups, UM faculty and grad
students) gathered for flyering and general "presence" at the Ann Arbor store on State Street Starbucks definitely was expecting us since there were police cars on both cross streets, 2 bike cops, and probably a total of 5 officers. The police left us alone, let us do our thing, and when they realized we weren't going to create a mess, they filtered away, being friendly and fairly open minded to our cause as they left.
We had some casual interaction with employees, and at one point they
brought us out brewed fair trade coffee, which we graciously declined.
They had copies of the letter from Orin Smith ready, with a "Dear
Customer" cover letter. The manager quickly gave me one of these when I
passed on a press packet to him.
Expertise from biology professors and grad students that conduct research
in shade grown coffee in Central and South America helped provide
credibility to our cause. Both The Michigan Daily (campus paper) and the
Ann Arbor News ran stories.
All and all I would say it was effective. Thanks to OCA and the rest of
the group for the great organizational efforts.
The Michigan Daily story:
the Ann Arbor News story:
Follow up to our protest - great coverage. Fox 5 o clock, NBC
5 and 6 o clock, and ABC 5 o clock all ran VERY short but supportive
and HIGHLY visual stories about our action.
As for print media, The State News (the Michigan State Newspaper, with
about 20,000 readers daily) ran a half page story with a front page
blurb - there's also an online version at
Overview - the protest went off very smoothly, with large numbers
gathered early when the news crews were there - great visuals -
protesters stood in front of the Starbucks, as well as on all the
nearby street corners. G. River is a very busy street for both auto and
pedestrian traffic. Thousands of people saw our protest today. Press
packs were given out to the media, and about half the protesters signed
in (as did most of the media) for further updates. Some of them asked
NOT to be a part of any regular occurring mailing list, however. At one
point Starbucks employees brought out samples of their Fair Trade
coffee with little stickers attached to show how conscientious they were
being. It didn't go over well and they soon went back inside. For the
most part, the Starbucks was empty, though as our numbers dwindled,
more folks got courageous and went inside. Undercover police were
present but stayed out of the way. About 80% of passers-by took
information; some people were obviously angry that we were picking on
their favorite coffee shop. Others said they "already knew all about
Starbucks" but declined to stay and protest. Still, hundreds of people,
including lots of college students (That locations primary market) took
Overall the protest went very very well. It was a beautiful day, people were in a good mood, no tickets were issued or threats made, and the activist community felt reinvigorated by it. Pictures from activists camera should be sent or emailed to you within the next few days.
Three of us were at the Starbucks location in downtown Birmingham. We had hardly been there a minute when one police officer showed up. We had a short discussion. He decided we were not a threat and left.
We handed out about eighty leaflets to customers and passers-by alike. The reception was good, and people did at least read what they were given. We sat down with several people for discussion and could have used a bit more help with this, as it became clear that more education is needed.
The responses were favorable. One woman took her leaflet to her car to read but came back shouting "You are absolutely right, they should not be serving GMO stuff." One man returned after a short interval and requested a bunch of leaflets to take back to his co-workers. Another lady was distressed that the GMO stuff is in everything. Another man went away resolving to "do something."
What happened inside the shop is hard to determine as we made no attempt to enter, but the manager came out looking a bit flustered, bringing us a copy of the chairman's letter. She seemed surprised that we had already read it and had decided to protest anyway. She also did not know where to find non BGH milk. But we had an amicable interchange.
One man who claimed to be a Starbucks employee started to shout that "Starbucks only uses NATURAL ingredients in their products" It was impossible to reach him to tell him that the word natural covers a multitude of things.