A sign is seen as activists attend an event called 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 attempted to unionize, as well as Schultz’s recent announcement to close 16 locations permanently.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images
Starbucks has informed employees 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. It said a Kansas City, Missouri location where the voting results are pending is being closed due to security concerns. It said a Seattle location, which workers voted for in April, will close and reopen, and is operated as a licensed location by a neighboring supermarket. Starbucks will negotiate with the union to reach an agreement that will give employees the option to switch to other stores.
“We continue to evaluate the partner and customer experience across all of our stores as the normal course of business,” Starbucks said in a statement Tuesday about the Seattle location, adding that its decision would help build on the location’s relationship with store supermarket customers.
About 200 of the approximately 9,000 Starbucks locations in the US have voted to unionize.
Under interim CEO Howard Schultz, Starbucks has focused on reinvention of the company and emphasized priorities, including store safety and employee advancement opportunities. As part of the push, Starbucks closed more than a dozen stores due to safety concerns, most of them on the West Coast. A letter sent to employees last month mentioned personal safety, mental health issues and drug use in some locations.
But the union insists some closures are about more than safety, citing a list of 19 Starbucks locations that have closed or are about to close, eight of which have joined, signed up or started organizing.
“If Starbucks were serious about solving safety issues, they could work with partners and our union. Instead, Schultz and Starbucks have sent a loud and clear message: Complain about safety, and we will close your store,” said Starbucks Workers United in a statement.
Starbucks’ latest moves come after the company asked the National Labor Relations Board to suspend all post-vote union elections at its stores nationwide, over inappropriate actions during the Kansas City region’s voting process and likely elsewhere too. The company cited a whistleblower who approached it regarding the voting process and asked the labor council to halt the election until an investigation is completed.
Last month, Chipotle permanently closed a store in Augusta, Maine, because it was unable to resolve staffing problems there. Employees seeking to organize that store filed a complaint with NLRB, alleging the move was retaliation.
In an email to a Starbucks Workers United attorney regarding the Seattle location, Starbucks counsel said his goal is to get employees to work in other stores as quickly as possible so that “there is no gap in their work lives.” “is. The email, seen by CNBC, also says that the company reserves the right to “withdraw [union] certification” if misconduct is found in the store’s election.