NEW YORK -- New York City elected officials, neighborhood grocers, Teamsters Local 584 leaders and workers rallied on the steps of City Hall today to demand Starbucks Corporation drop plans to shift its source of milk from Elmhurst Dairy in Queens to a non-union plant out of the City by the end of this week. Starbucks' action could force the City's last remaining dairy processor to close, leading to the loss of over at least 700 jobs at the Jamaica facility and its related distribution operation.
Attending the event to speak out against Starbucks' action were City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Deputy Majority Leader Leroy Comrie, Council Member Ruben Mills, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, the Queens City Council delegation, Teamsters Local 584 vice president Frank Wunderlich and over 150 Elmhurst Dairy employees.
Elmhurst Dairy employs 252 workers in its processing plant in Jamaica, with over 450 other people employed on-site by distribution and support operations. Elmhurst has supplied processed milk to Starbucks since 2003 through a distributor, Bartlett Dairy, under an agreement that extends to November 2013. Elmhurst Dairy recently learned Starbucks and Bartlett plan to replace Elmhurst with an out-of-city milk processor, Dean Foods, by Friday, June 17, walking away from the contractual commitment to New York City's last remaining dairy plant.
At present, a substantial percentage of Elmhurst's business is attributable to the milk it processes for Starbucks. The sudden loss of this business could force Elmhurst, like every other New York City-based milk plant before it, to close its doors.
Elmhurst Dairy is the sole provider of milk to 8,300 independent small grocery stores citywide as well as over 1,400 NYC public schools. The closure of Elmhurst Dairy would eliminate the last local competitor to out-of-state milk distributors, potentially disrupting milk deliveries to neighborhood grocers and inevitably increasing the cost of milk for both consumers and the City school system.
"In addition to providing milk to generations of New Yorkers, Elmhurst Dairy provides jobs to more than 700 families in Jamaica, Queens and around the city," said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. "If Starbucks continues with plans to terminate its contract with Elmhurst it will likely cause this company to go under, laying off hundreds of workers at a time when unemployment is already too high. On their website, Starbucks states that they believe 'businesses can -- and should -- have a positive impact on the communities they serve'. We're calling on Starbucks to live up to those words, and to their contract, by not turning their backs on New York City."