Of 42 million displaced people, 16 million could be categorized as refugees according to a United Nations report in 2009. Last year, the Obama administration pledged to resettle 110,000 refugees in the United States.
On Jan. 29 Starbucks CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz pledged to hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years.
FILE- In this Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz speaks during the Starbucks 2016 Investor Day meeting in New York. Starbucks says it will hire 10,000 refugees over the next five years, a response to President Donald Trump’s indefinite suspension of Syrian refugees and temporary travel bans that apply to six other Muslim-majority nations. Schultz said in a letter to employees Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017, that the hiring would apply to stores worldwide. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
Response to the initiative has been mixed.
“While we don’t agree with the President’s position on immigration, our primary concern as an organization is for the economic empowerment of the African American community in the Greater Baltimore area,” said Debra Keller-Greene, Chair of the Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce via email. “There is no reason why Starbucks should seek to exclusively hire 10,000 refugees when there are thousands of African American citizens who are in need of employment right here in Baltimore and Maryland.”
Unemployment currently sits at 7.4% in Baltimore, Maryland, over a third more than the national average of 5.4%. Starbucks claims to have 24,000 storefronts worldwide and more than half operate in the United States. Even allowing for zero attrition, this amounts to significantly less than one refugee hire per store and Starbucks has facilities and operations that extend from the storefront all the way back to bean plantation.
FILE – This Dec. 20, 2010, file photo, shows signage at a Starbucks store in New York. Starbucks is launching voice ordering though its iPhone app. Starting Monday, Jan. 30, 2017, anyone with a device that has an Amazon device with Alexa, like the Echo smart speaker, is able to place a Starbucks order by just using their voice. Starbucks is also launching a beta test of voice ordering through its iPhone app. The Seattle-based coffee giant says the feature is being rolled out to a limited group of 1,000 people nationwide Monday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
“I think it can be ‘both and’ versus ‘either or,’” said Robert Wallace, Chairman of the Baltimore-based President’s Round Table (PRT) and Bithgroup Technologies. “But folks in the community should be the priority.”
Mr. Wallace does not want the refugee community already in Baltimore to be forgotten.
“We (PRT) are always looking for ways to employ people in the community,” said Wallace. “To grow the economic ecosystem of our community.”
Starbucks has emphasized that they will be focusing on refugees that have served alongside United States servicemen overseas. How Starbucks will prioritize the internally displaced, incoming and refugees already relocated remains unclear. 1.8 million refugees have been admitted to the United States since 1980 according to Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services.
“I think it’s a good thing, definitely,” said Sydney Barker, 20, a student at Towson University and Starbucks customer. “I’m not a huge supporter of Donald Trump. I think that what he’s doing to the Muslim people is a travesty against our country. It’s terrible for them. I support that Starbucks is working with them and trying to help them.”