Palestine Labor Abolition Affinity groups Commentary

Documenting and amplifying 5C organizing

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February 27, 2024

120+ students rally and delegate to Harvey Mudd College administration to #dropstarbucks

“When HMC uses Starbucks as a supplier, our university is materially and symbolically supporting a corporation that violates workers rights.”

Undercurrents staff

On Thursday, Feb. 22, a group of 120 students gathered in front of the Shanahan steps on Harvey Mudd’s campus as part of the Claremont Student Workers Alliance’s (CSWA) #Dropstarbucks campaign. Speakers from the 7C Southwest Asian and North African identity group (SWANA), Nobody Fails at Mudd (NFAM) and CSWA spoke at the rally.

Starbucks sued its own union in October over a tweet in solidarity of Palestine. Since then, college students across the United States have called for boycotts and terminations with the company over its history of union busting and repression of pro-Palestinian speech.

“We are here today because Harvey Mudd College prides itself as an ‘ethical’ STEM school while partaking in unethical behaviors,” said a CSWA speaker.

This delegation was the result of an ongoing effort to end HMC’s contract with Starbucks as a supplier for the campus’ cafe and Jay’s Place. Common themes amongst the speakers were Harvey Mudd’s contradictions between its values and practice, Starbucks’ history of union busting, and Starbucks’ investment in and support of Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

Two student speakers from 7C SWANA spoke on the connection between Starbucks and the suppression of pro-Palestine speech. 

The Palestine Exception — a vile tactic used to stifle any discourse on Palestine, branding advocates as antisemitic or pro-terrorist…undermines our freedom of speech, our ability to challenge the apartheid state of Israel without fear of reprisal … [and has gone] so far as to justify union busting,” 

The 7C SWANA speakers also brought up the struggles of Gazans, including a lack of access to clean water. The speaker concluded by advocating solidarity for both Gazans and unionized Starbucks workers despite the apolitical nature of Mudd students. 

NFAM, a mutual aid organization at HMC, also spoke of its intersection with labor organizing and its connection with pro-Palestinian solidarity. 

“We live in a country where our government denies workers of necessary resources while simultaneously supporting big corporations in their efforts to exploit these same workers,” said a NFAM representative at the rally. 

The NFAM speaker also emphasized the organization’s connection with labor organizing at Starbucks Workers United and their material and symbolic need to cut ties with Starbucks.

“At NFAM we recognize the labor power that is growing amongst unionized workers at Starbucks,” the NFAM speaker said. “When HMC uses Starbucks as a supplier, our university is materially and symbolically supporting a corporation that violates workers rights.” 

Students also passed around zines with FAQs about the campaign and a QR code to the petition. After the speeches, around 70 students marched into Kingston Hall and delegated to a member of HMC’s finance office. 

“The mission of Harvey Mudd College is to provide students with a clear understanding of the impact of their work on society,” said the student delegates. “In order to be socially responsible, Harvey Mudd College must put this understanding into practice and terminate its contracts with companies with unethical and illegal practices.”

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Thanks for reading Undercurrents

Undercurrents reports on labor, Palestine liberation, prison abolition and other community organizing at and around the Claremont Colleges.

Issue 1 / Spring 2023

Setting the Standard

How Pomona workers won a historic $25 minimum wage; a new union in Claremont; Tony Hoang on organizing

Read issue 1