Why Starbucks' CEO Claims More Closures Are On The Way

Neighborhood Starbucks stores across the United States might be on the chopping block, according to a video shared on Twitter by talk radio host Ari Hoffman. This news comes a week after Starbucks closed 16 U.S. locations due to "safety concerns." In the leaked clip, which Hoffman identifies as coming from an "internal meeting," Schultz states, "This is just the beginning. There are going to be many more."

In regards to the earlier closings, a Starbucks spokesperson hinted at this in a statement provided to Insider, sharing the chain would be "closing some stores in 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."

Starbucks also released an open letter to employees July 11 regarding safety in its stores, signed by senior vice presidents of U.S. operations Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelsen. In the letter, the pair express concern over challenges faced by employees and the communities Starbucks stores are located in. "We want you to know that creating a safe, welcoming, and kind third place is our top priority. Because simply put, we cannot serve as partners if we don't first feel safe at work," the letter reads. (Starbucks has previously defined a "third place" as a space between home and work.)

Safety concerns may spark more closures

In the leaked video, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz refers to the coffee chain as a "window into America" that is witnessing firsthand the rise of "the issue of mental illness, the issues of homelessness, and the issues of crime." Schultz explained learning from meetings with employees "one of the primary concerns ... is their own personal safety," which the CEO says "shocked me." 

Starbucks confirmed the authenticity of the video to Insider, but did not provide any further details on the matter. Schultz gave no details on when or where the upcoming closures may occur.

Starbucks union organizers have asserted that these closures are veiled acts of union busting. In These Times reports that two of the 16 stores closed last week had voted to unionize and a third was prepared to hold a vote in August. Starbucks Workers United filed an unfair labor practice charge against Starbucks that claimed these closures were a form of union busting.

And this isn't the first time Starbucks had been accused of closing a store in retaliation for unionizing. According to NPR, employees at a Starbucks location in Ithaca, NY claim this exact thing happened at their store in June. The employees filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board in response to the closure.