Elmhurst Dairy drops suit against Starbucks

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Elmhurst Dairy has withdrawn its court challenge against Starbucks seeking to compel the coffee chain to reverse its decision to stop using the Jamaica dairy plant’s products in its city locations.

The lawsuit was removed Monday during a hearing in Queens Civil Court and a Starbucks spokeswoman said the company would move forward with its new partnership with Dean Foods Co., which is supplying the milk products to the 256 New York City Starbucks locations from an upstate milk plant.

The administrators at the Jamaica plant, at 155-25 Styler Road, ´╗┐originally contended that the Seattle-based company unjustly terminated their contract, which began in 2003, but Starbucks maintained it gave Elmhurst a chance to continue their operations.

“They weren’t able to substantiate their claims,” Starbucks spokeswoman Stacy Krum said.

Representatives from Elmhurst Dairy, which has 700 union workers, did not return phone calls for comment by press time Tuesday afternoon.

Elmhurst Dairy is the only milk plant in Queens and produces 1.5 million gallons of milk that is shipped to tri-state area stores, eateries and other locations such as city public schools.

Two weeks ago, the plant workers rallied at City Hall with several elected officials to protest Starbucks’ decision. Elected officials such as U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said the move would put hundreds of Elmhurst Dairy jobs in jeopardy.

Starbucks disagreed.

The coffee chain said it only accounted for 10 percent of Elmhurst Dairy’s business and the milk plant’s distributors told the company in an affidavit, “If Elmhurst lost the Starbucks volume, it would not have to lay anyone off but rather it would merely cut the substantial overtime it is currently giving its workers.”

The Queens plant also refused to participate in a “dairy-sourcing request for proposals” in the fall and, as a result, Starbucks went with Dean Foods, which did participate in the RFP.

Although the initial challenge has been withdrawn, Elmhurst Dairy is planning further court action against Starbucks, according to the company’s spokeswoman, but she could not elaborate.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 11:07 am, October 12, 2011
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