Union claims retaliation for workers voting to unionize
As announced last month, Starbucks is indeed closing more stores, with the latest two being in Kansas City, MO, and Seattle.
The coffee chain has blamed safety issues for the Kansas City location’s closure, CNBC reported, which ties into CEO Howard Schultz’ messaging last month in a leaked video.
“We’ve heard the stories that go along with it about what happens in our bathrooms, the issue of mental illness, the issues of homelessness and the issues of crime,” Schultz said. “Starbucks is a window into America. We have stores in every community and we’re facing things the stores weren’t built for. We’re listening to our people and closing stores. This is just the beginning – there are going to be many more.”
Meanwhile, the Seattle location will close and reopen, operated as a licensed location by a neighboring grocery store, CNBC reported. “We continue to evaluate the partner and customer experience at all of our stores as a regular course of business,” Starbucks said in a statement on Tuesday.
However, Starbucks Workers United argues the closures are retaliation for organizing efforts: union voting results are pending at the Kansas City store and the Seattle workers voted to organize in April. Starbucks will bargain with the union to seek an agreement that gives workers the opportunity to transfer to other stores, CNBC reported.
Last month, the Seattle-headquartered coffee giant announced 16 locations across the United States, including in California, would close by the end of July. According to Insider, a Starbucks spokesperson blamed “locations that have experienced a high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue to operate, to open new locations with safer conditions.”
However, Starbucks union organizers have a different perspective, citing eight of the locations that have closed or are closing have unionized, filed or started to organize. “If Starbucks was serious about solving safety issues, they could work with partners and our union. Instead, Schultz and Starbucks have sent a message loud and clear – complain about safety, and we’ll close your store,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement.
These closures also come on the heels of Starbucks asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to suspend all mail-in ballot union elections nationwide. This is because the labor board’s officials, Starbucks claimed, acted inappropriately during an election in the Kansas City area. The company cited email correspondence that allegedly occurred between union representatives and labor board officials, which it claimed to have learned from a whistleblower.
The company also claimed that NLRB officials coordinated with union agents to arrange for in-person voting at the labor board’s offices during mail-in ballot elections. Starbucks Workers United was also given confidential, real-time information about specific vote counts so the union could target employees who had not voted yet, according to Starbucks.
About 200 of Starbucks’ roughly 9,000 locations in the U.S. have voted to unionize as of August 2022.