Many people just know Chobani as the company that makes those little cups of greek yogurt goodness.
But thanks to Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya, the company is also known for something else — hiring refugees.
This kind of support is important for the nearly 85,000 refugees who entered the U.S. this past year, fleeing their home countries due to extreme poverty, natural disasters, or war. Once stateside, many refugees struggle to find a way to provide for their families while overcoming a language barrier and navigating a slew of cultural differences.
It’s an experience Ulukaya knows all too well as a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent. Ulukaya moved to upstate New York in the 1990s and by 2007 had turned an $800,000 loan and defunct yogurt factory into the tasty yogurt treat we all know today.
When business picked up and Ulukaya needed more hands, he turned to a nearby refugee resettlement center for help. He offered newcomers transportation and translators as well as salaries above minimum wage. When he opened a second factory in Twin Falls, Idaho, he went around and did the exact same thing.
Today, Chobani employs over 300 refugees. And the company isn’t stopping anytime soon.
In 2015, Ulukaya started the Tent Foundation, an alliance of industry leaders that helps displaced refugees from around the world and integrates them into the workforce.
“These actions have inspired us to launch the Tent Pledge and the Tent Challenge,” Ulukaya wrote in a CNN Money opinion piece. “The Tent Pledge asks companies all over the world to step up and do more. We’re asking them to provide refugees with job training, employment opportunities, and the kind of direct assistance that experts have identified as a priority — everything from blankets and water, to debit cards and Internet access.”
Sadly, not everyone was thrilled to hear about Chobani’s dedication to helping refugees find work and support their families.
This was just one of many similar tweets calling for boycotts of companies that have made progressive commitments to social justice and equality.
But just as fast as hateful tweets calling for a Chobani boycott started showing up, people responded even faster to show their support for the company.
Mostly people were buying lots of Chobani yogurt and tweeting pics of their bounty:
Try though some people might, there’s just no stopping Chobani’s commitment to hiring refugees.
On top of Ulukaya’s refugee hiring policy and the work of the Tent Foundation, he also started the Giving Pledge, a commitment to give majority of his fortune to aid refugees. Just like in his Tent Pledge, he’s tapped the world’s wealthiest people to be part of it.
Many people don’t understand that refugees and immigrants play an important role in improving the economy — opening small businesses, creating new jobs, and helping raise wages for all workers. Initiatives like Chobani’s are a huge step in the right direction, helping refugees get settled and integrated in society. At the end of the day, a little empathy towards refugees, coupled with the right job opportunity, can make all the difference in our success as a country.
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