Starbucks Is Being Criticized Over Symbolic Seattle Location Closure

Despite ongoing declarations about its intention to negotiate in good faith, Starbucks took what some view as yet another symbolic swipe at workers attempting to form a union by closing the first Seattle store where employees voted for union representation. A company spokesman said that the store's abrupt closure, set for December 9, came as a result of Starbucks' concern about the location's safety and security (via CNN).

According to The Seattle Times, the company revealed its plan to store employees on November 21. Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull listed incidents including "theft, vandalism, property damage, drug use, threats of physical violence, verbal harassment and assault" as specific reasons for the closure (via Yahoo! News). An investigation conducted by the publication turned up police reports of 97 incidents at that Broadway and Denny Starbucks location between January 1, 2020 and July 10, 2022. That compares to 68 incidents at the Union Station Starbucks and 157 incidents at the Central District Starbucks during the same time period.

Starbucks Workers United, the organization representing Starbucks union efforts, stated the most recent closure is sending a message of retaliation to union organizers. The planned closing date coincides with the first anniversary of the date workers voted to organize what became the chain's first union store in Buffalo, New York (via Associated Press).

Safety first?

This week's closure announcement comes on the heels of a nationwide strike earlier this month by Starbucks employees who, with the help of Starbucks Workers United, organized picket lines to coincide with one of Starbucks' most anticipated annual promotions, Red Cup Day. Calling it, according to The Hill, "the biggest coordinated national action taken by union Starbucks stores in the campaign's history," a release issued by Starbucks Workers United stated that the Red Cup Rebellion was an attempt to shine a light on Starbucks' perceived tactics to either prevent or disrupt workers' attempts to unionize.

The upcoming closure of the Starbucks at Broadway and Denny in Seattle is just the most recent in a string of closures. In July 2022, Starbucks cited similar safety concerns while announcing the closure of five stores in Seattle and another 16 nationwide, per CNN. Responding to the latest closure announcement, Starbucks Workers United stated, "They lack respect not only for the rights of their workers, but for the law of this country" (via CNN Business).

Since December 2021, employees at 259 Starbucks locations voted to unionize, according to CNN Business, while another 57 have voted not to organize. The company currently operates almost 10,000 stores in North America. According to ABC 7 New York, as of November 2022, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued 39 complaints against the coffee giant. Starbucks Workers United stated that these resulted from more than 900 allegations brought against Starbucks for labor law violations.