On Wednesday, Starbucks announced that it will no longer require its some 228,000 employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19. The decision by the coffee chain comes roughly a week after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) reversed President Joe Biden’s workplace mandate.
“We respect the Court’s ruling and will comply,” Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in a memo to employees, FoxBusiness reported.
Despite the change, Starbucks is still encouraging that all workers be vaccinated and even boosted against the novel coronavirus.
“I want to emphasize that we continue to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate,” Culver added. “Thank you to the more than 90 percent of partners who have already disclosed their vaccination status, and to the vast majority who are now fully vaccinated.”
Soon after the announcement was made, many took to social media to express their opinion to the company’s decision, and the hashtag #BoycottStarbucks quickly made the rounds. It was among the top trending topics on Wednesday afternoon.
“Patronize businesses that require vaccinations and boycott those that don’t. #BoycottStarbucks,” posted author Barb Johansen Newman (@JohansenNewman).
Yet, those opposed to vaccine mandates praised the coffee chain’s decision and called out what they saw as hypocrisy for the calls to boycott.
“Democrats are now threatening to #BoycottStarbucks because they nixed their vaccine mandate for employees. They didn’t do it because they’re all of a sudden conservative, they did it because they can’t find employees. Democrats are sick in the head, they don’t want to move on,” wrote author Brigitte Gabriel (@ACTBrigitte).
Conservative activist Scott Presler (@ScottPresler), tweeted, “In honor of Starbucks rescinding the vaccine mandate for employees, I’m going to sit at a Starbucks w/ my ‘Joe Biden left Americans behind in Afghanistan’ laptop. “
Companies Beware: Calls To Boycott Matter?
The call to #BoycottStarbucks may have trended, but it may not sway opinions all that much. In fact, those opposed to the vaccine mandates may actually be encouraged to head to the coffee chain now.
Yet, boycotts can matter to a company if it generates enough buzz, explained brand marketing expert and social media pundit Scott Steinberg
“The power of the pocketbook speaks volumes,” said Steinberg. “It is the very place our mind drifts when we are unhappy with a business. Those who don’t agree with Starbucks decision may not so quickly shell out five bucks for the double mochaccino. What we’ve seen is that people are becoming more vocal than ever, especially when it relates to issues around Covid. It is really no different than the political divide we see on social media.”
In the past, there have been companies that were called out for not enforcing mask mandates, and it seems both sides will call for boycotts. It would seem impossible given the great divide in America for any company to satisfy everyone.
“Today you’re very much damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” added Steinberg. “We’re so polarized, and both sides are entrenched. On social media, we’re also seeing arguments being argued for the sake of being argumentative. So it isn’t all that surprising that one side will always be up in arms.”
For businesses, there is no winning.
“As long as we stay this divided, from the corporate standpoint companies will continue to risk alienating a segment of the market,” warned Steinberg.
Social media will only serve to make it worse.
“As I’ve said many times, social media is an echo chamber,” Steinberg noted. “People have been stuck home, so they mount their frustrations online. People are more stressed out and high-strung and they just need a place to vent.”
Not getting that double mochaccino fix likely won’t help at all.