Starbucks informs workers at two stores of closures, union claims retaliation

A sign is seen as activists take part in an event dubbed the Un-Birthday Party and Picket Line for Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on July 19, 2022 in New York City. Activists gathered near Schultz’s West Village home on his 75th birthday to protest the treatment of Starbucks workers who try to unionize, as well as Schultz’s recent announcement to close permanently 16 locations.

Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

Starbucks has informed workers at two locations that their stores will close, a move the coffee chain’s union says is retaliation for organizing efforts.

The company said union activity is not the reason for the closures. He said a site in Kansas City, Missouri, where voting results are pending, is closing due to security concerns. He said a Seattle location, where workers voted to organize in April, will close and reopen, operated as a licensed location by a nearby grocery store. Starbucks will enter into negotiations with the union to seek an agreement that gives workers the option of transferring to other stores.

“We continue to evaluate the partner and customer experience at all of our stores as part of our regular business activities,” Starbucks said in a statement Tuesday about the Seattle location, adding that its decision would help strengthen the location’s relationship with grocery customers. shop.

About 200 of approximately 9,000 Starbucks locations in the United States have voted to unionize.

Under interim CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks has focused on reinventing the business and emphasizing priorities including store safety and advancement opportunities for workers. As part of the push, Starbucks closed more than a dozen stores for security reasons, mostly on the west coast. A letter sent to employees last month cited personal safety and mental health concerns and drug use in some locations.

But the union maintains that some closures go beyond safety, pointing to a list of 19 Starbucks locations that have closed or are closing, eight of which have unionized, filed or started organizing .

“If Starbucks were serious about addressing safety issues, they could work with partners and our union. Instead, Schultz and Starbucks sent a loud and clear message – complain about safety, and we will close your store,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement.

Starbucks’ latest moves come after the company asked the National Labor Relations Board to suspend all correspondence vote union elections at its stores nationwide, alleging improper actions during the voting process in the Kansas City area, and probably elsewhere. The company cited a whistleblower who approached him regarding the voting process and asked the labor board to halt the election until an investigation was completed.

Last month, Chipotle permanently closed a store in Augusta, Maine, saying it could not resolve staffing issues there. Workers seeking to organize this store filed a complaint with the NLRB, claiming the move was retaliatory.

In an email to a Starbucks Workers United attorney regarding the Seattle site, the Starbucks attorney said his goal was to get employees to work in other stores as soon as possible so that he there is “no interruption in their professional life”. The email, seen by CNBC, also states that the company reserves the right to “request removal of [union] certification” if a fault is found during the election of the store.

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