Supporters and opponents of Trump's refugee ban take to social media to put pressure on companies

The hashtag #BoycottStarbucks was trending Monday on Twitter, a day after Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz pledged to hire 10,000 refugees globally over the next five years.

The backlash wasn’t far behind.

“We have a long history of hiring young people looking for opportunities and a pathway to a new life around the world,” Schultz wrote in a letter to employees Sunday. “This is why we are doubling down on this commitment.”

Schultz said the hiring would take place in the 75 countries where Starbucks does business, beginning at home in the United States with interpreters and others who had helped support the U.S. military abroad.

Social media users and conservative media sites quickly criticized Schultz for prioritizing refugees over unemployed homeless, veteran and black citizens in the United States.

A Facebook post by the pro-Trump website “100 Percent Fed Up” encouraged its followers to call Starbucks and boycott the company. It was shared nearly 10,000 times.

One Twitter user, @Pamela_Moore13, said, “I would rather take care of TEN homeless US veterans than 50,000 migrants/illegal aliens. How about you?”

A tweet from @TEN_GOP, which describes itself as the “unofficial Twitter of Tennessee Republicans,” faulted Starbucks for not helping bring down black unemployment instead. It was liked 3,000 times.

The hashtag also prompted a vigorous backlash, with people critical of the refugee ban co-opting the hashtag and saying they would go out of their way to support the company.

The debate was the latest development in a social media war between supporters and opponents of President Trump’s policies, in which companies are increasingly being forced to take sides.

On Saturday evening, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, whose membership is largely Muslim and Sikh and almost universally immigrant, called for a work stoppage — including by drivers for the ride-share company Uber — at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Uber tweeted that evening that surge pricing — the fare increase that typically accompanies an increase in demand — had been turned off at JFK.

The tweet was seen by many as an attempt by Uber to advertise its services and profit from the strike, and the hashtag #deleteUber quickly took off online, with people posting photos of themselves deleting the app from their phones.

Lyft, an Uber competitor, said the company would donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union to support its work defending detained immigrants.

Uber later tweeted a clarification that its earlier tweet had not been intended to break the strike, and Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, who has been under fire for agreeing to serve as an economic advisor to Trump, promised to donate $3 million for the legal defense of immigrants, but many social media users said it was too little, too late. 

nina.agrawal@latimes.com

Twitter: @AgrawalNina

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