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Protest Starbucks

Indiana Students Push for a Fair Solution

Although this is just a conservative estimate, and I have no real data to back it up, I'd be willing to bet that nearly 3 million IU students visit Starbucks every day.

I, meanwhile, had been able to avoid ever even stepping foot inside a Starbucks, let alone spending any money there, until this school year, when Starbucks managed to establish, at least within the Indiana Memorial Union, a monopoly on coffee that actually somewhat resembles coffee. As depressing as my inability to resist the convenience is from a personal standpoint, it's been quite an educational experience.

We all know Starbucks moves in right next door to local coffee operations and then intentionally runs them out of business (a phenomenon I've witnessed with my very eyes), but that's only the beginning of the evilness.

Worse is their "fair trade" coffee option.

Not that they offer it, but that they only offer one.

Every day, consumers have the choice between decaf, a full-flavored, bold and caffeinated blend, and a mild fair trade blend. The tag on the fair trade blend informs the consumer that fair trade coffee ensures that the coffee farmers are given fair compensation for their crops.

Thus, Starbucks' idea of corporate responsibility is ensuring that one-third of its suppliers are able to feed their families each night. The other two-thirds are left to fend for themselves while receiving next to nothing for their product. Isn't that the epitome of fair trade?

Starbucks, more than any other coffee house, should be able to ensure that everyone is fairly compensated. It has greater bargaining power than any other coffee chain in the United States.

And besides that, it makes a killing on its coffee. Not only does it charge outrageous prices for mediocre coffee that costs it next to nothing, but it triples those prices to mix it with ice and milk. So it's not like it's low on profits.

In a company with that much power, it's sickening that it acknowledges the unfairness inherent in the coffee trade, yet refuses to take more than token steps to resolve it. In some ways, that's even sicker and more twisted than not acknowledging corporate irresponsibility at all.

Now, there's a proposal to build a stand-alone Starbucks in the IMU. Before considering this further, IU needs to take the lead in establishing fair-minded business practices. We need to band together and demand that Starbucks only offer fair-trade coffee in its IMU, or else not offer coffee at all.

It might just be a pipe dream, but I'd like to think that other universities might jump on board, and maybe, just maybe, it might make a dent in Starbucks' business practices. It, in turn, might be able to make a dent in the business practices of the coffee trade at large.

The moral of this story: Think before you drink.

As it stands now, is a morning cup energy boost really worth the starvation of so many families in an already poor region?