Why The Abrupt Closure Of A Kansas City Starbucks Is Raising Questions

Reports of the closure of a Kansas City, Missouri Starbucks location have some wondering if this is the latest act of union busting by the coffee mega-chain (via KSHB).

The Kansas City Star notes that the recently closed location, referred to as Country Club Plaza, was the first in the region to attempt to unionize, with the Kansas City Business Journal explaining the store's union vote came to a tie, which counts as a loss. Following the location's tie vote, staff at two other local Starbucks locations have successfully formed unions.

Ever since the first Starbucks employees announced plans to form a union, the company has responded strongly against the move. Starbucks Interim CEO Howard Schultz has told pro-union baristas to "go somewhere else" and made claims that unions are "assaulting companies." The chain has been accused of firing employees for being pro-union and multiple complaints have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board in response. The company has also offered new benefits to non-union employees, which has provoked further allegations. In light of this, the sudden closure of the Country Club Plaza Kansas City location is being treated with scrutiny by some close to it.

The company has cited security and safety concerns for the closure

The store's closure came suddenly, per KSHB, with employees alleging they were only told 15 minutes before the public announcement was made. According to Starbucks barista Josh Crowell, who was employed at the Country Club Plaza location, the company cited safety and security concerns as the reason for the closure. Similar reasoning was used to support the closure of 16 other Starbucks locations earlier this summer, which were met with skepticism by some. The coffee chain did not explicitly close pro-union stores, though two of the 16 had already formed unions and the third was in the process of organizing its vote (via In These Times). At the time, Schultz claimed that there would be similar closures in the future.

A letter from the company explaining the Country Club Plaza location closure thanked community members for their patronage and recommended other nearby locations where they could get their coffee instead; It was signed by the district manager and store manager, respectively. KSHB, The Kansas City Star, and the Kansas City Business Journal all reached out to Starbucks for further clarification but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

Crowell told KSHB that he believes the closure was related to pro-union activities, stating, "Obviously they're not gonna explicitly say that it's about the union. I don't think it's suspect to say that union busting is probably part of this decision-making process as well."