The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Starbucks, Iowa union engage in court battle Wednesday over pro-Palestinian social media post

Starbucks claims the union is confusing customers with its logo resembling the famous coffee chain.
Cody Blissett
Luis Aispuro holds a sign during a workers strike in Iowa City on Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.

Starbucks and the union that represents Starbucks workers, Starbucks Workers United, sued each other in federal court in Iowa and Pennsylvania Wednesday.

The legal battle rooted from a pro-Palestinian social media post by the Iowa City Starbucks Workers United X, formerly known as Twitter, account shortly after the conflict in Israel erupted on Oct. 7. The Iowa City union’s officials directed The Daily Iowan to the press contact of the national Starbucks Workers United when asked to comment.

Starbucks sued Workers United on the stance that a social media post from a union account about the Israel-Hamas war that angered customers and damaged its reputation.

Starbucks is suing the union for trademark infringement, demanding that Workers United stop using a circular green logo which is similar the Starbucks’ logo, and to stop using the name “Starbucks Workers United.”

Starbucks Executive Vice President Sara Kelly wrote in a letter to employees that Starbucks condemns acts of hate, terrorism, and violence, according to the Associated Press.

In an initial complaint, Starbucks’ claimed that the union misled and confused customers, as they adopted the Starbucks name and logo as their own.

Workers United countered with its own filing in a federal court in Pennsylvania, asking the court to allow them to continue to use Starbucks’ name and similar logo. Workers United said Starbucks defamed the union with the implication that it supports terrorism and violence.

On Oct. 9, Starbucks Workers United posted “Solidarity with Palestine” on X. The post was two days after Hamas militants attacked several communities in Southern Israel. In its lawsuit, Workers United said the tweet was posted without the authorization of union leaders.

The post itself was only up for about 40 minutes, however, on Wednesday, posts and retweets from union branches supporting Palestine and denouncing Israel were visible on X.

As the leading coffee roaster and retailed in the United States, Starbucks faced backlash, receiving hundreds of complaints about the union’s post.

“[The lawsuit] is an action concerning the actual and threatened injury to the safety, well-being, operations, and reputation of Starbucks and its employees caused by [Starbucks Workers United’s] inflammatory and misleading communications, which have led, among other things, to property damage, threats, and calls for a boycott against Starbucks,” the lawsuit read.

The corporation also received criticism from public officials.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., publicly shamed Starbucks for supporting a terrorist organization and posted on X, calling the public to “boycott Starbucks.”

Scott’s post was reshared on Oct. 11 by Republican Florida Rep. Randy Fine, who added “If you go to Starbucks, you are supporting killing Jews.”

Customers jumped on the social media thread and publicly announced their boycott.

Starbucks’ initial complaint said, “Other workers’ organizations have put out statements against Israel, but the public has not called for boycotts of the respective employers where those workers’ organizations do not adopt the employers’ names or marks.”

“Workers United has no interest in engendering confusion between itself and the corporation whose workers it represents,” the lawsuit by Workers United read. “Particularly given Starbucks’ egregious anti-union campaign, Workers United does not want workers to fear that the Union is somehow controlled or sponsored by the company.”

Starbucks and Starbucks Workers United could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

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About the Contributors
Roxy Ekberg, Politics Reporter
Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a politics reporter, she worked news reporter at the Daily Iowan and worked at her local newspaper The Wakefield Republican.
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.