Starbucks Is Being Accused Of Closing This Location To Punish Union

Starbucks recently announced the closure of a recently-unionized Ithaca, New York location, and, according to Bloomberg, union organizers have filed a complaint against the company, alleging that Starbucks is closing the store in an illegal retaliation against the vote to unionize. Starbucks, however, has denied the claims and has instead attributed the closure to "facilities, staffing, and 'time and attendance' issues," according to the outlet.

Per, the Starbucks location voted to unionize on April 8, along with the city's two other locations. The decisions made Ithaca the first city in the U.S. where all Starbucks locations are unionized. Workers across the three stores were hoping to address wages, tip minimums, inconsistent scheduling, and other grievances in their negotiations, the outlet reported.

In particular, at the Ithaca location that Starbucks is planning to close, safety issues were a major motivating factor in the decision to unionize. According to NPR, employees staged a one-day strike to protest unsafe conditions resulting from "a waste emergency caused by the overflowing grease trap."

Why is Starbucks closing the Ithaca, NY location?

According to Bloomberg, a complaint was filed with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board on Friday, June 3. In it, the Workers United union accused Starbucks of violating federal labor laws by deciding to close the location. According to NPR, employees were given a one-week notice of the store closure, which is set to permanently shutter on June 10.

"Starbucks won't get away with retaliating against us like this," said Evan Sunshine, one of the store's employees, in a statement from the union to Bloomberg. "Whatever it takes, however long it may take, we will persevere." Benjamin South, another employee, echoed that sentiment, telling NPR, "This is clearly retaliation for our small grasps at dignity as workers, but our strike showed them what power we have."

According to NPR, the union committee behind the complaint says that the closure violates labor laws that protect workers' rights to organize, and violates the company's legal obligation to bargain with workers. Additionally, they say the closure serves to deter other locations from unionizing. Starbucks, however, maintains that the decision to close the store was made independently of union activity. "We open and close stores as a regular part of our operations," said Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges, per Bloomberg. "With deep care and urgency we continuously work to create the kind of store environment that partners and customers expect of Starbucks."