Starbucks workers hold rally after recently unionized store abruptly closes
Jun 8, 2022, 7:32 PM | Updated: Jun 9, 2022, 8:13 am
(Photo by JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)
Outside of a soon-to-be-closed Starbucks in Ithaca, N.Y. a series of union organizers, Starbucks Workers United members, local activists, political figures, and supporters, rallied in protest against Starbucks’ announcement to close the location, which they say is due to the store’s recent attempts to unionize.
Speakers at the press conference urged an Ithaca-wide boycott of Starbucks and its cafés until the company negotiates to keep the Collegetown store open. Some employees still haven’t gotten word from the company about whether they’ll have jobs after the closure.
“We can’t let Starbucks decide to close a union store two months after we won a vote just because all of the workers here won’t let managers talk to us however way they want to, or put us through hell,” said Benjamin South, a Collegetown Starbucks worker and one of the union’s local leaders, at the rally. “We have the power of the community. We have the power of the union. And they have to listen to us. It’s never going away.”
On June 3, Starbucks partners at the College Ave. location were informed by their District Manager that their store would permanently close on June 10. This is the first Starbucks location that the company has attempted to close after workers voted to unionize.
The College Ave. partners won their union on April 8, winning with a margin of 19-1. About a week later, on April 16, the workers went on strike over health and safety violations, specifically relating to the grease trap in the store, which overflowed.
Starbucks has since listed the grease trap issue as the primary reason for shutting down the store.
“It’s happened for too long, corporations outlast and outspend us, or get away with immoral behavior like this with no consequences,” said Gary Bonadonna, the executive vice president of Workers United. “The general public has to say, ‘We, as a society, find it unacceptable for a corporation to retaliate against workers organizing a union.’ ”
Local Starbucks organizers had instructed those who visited the Collegetown location to participate in a “sip-in” by ordering cups of water from the location under the name “Union Strong.”
“This is an act of desperation. Starbucks is willing to break the law to stop you all, don’t let this demoralize you,” said Common Councilmember Jorge DeFendini. “They wouldn’t be going this far if you weren’t scaring them, if you weren’t making a transformative change at your own jobs. Ithaca is a union city, and we will protect every single one of our neighbors who belongs to one from their greedy bosses.”
Starbucks representatives stated it opens and closes stores regularly. The company said it will bargain with the store’s employees — as labor law requires — to determine what will happen to them and said it has immediate job openings in the Ithaca area.
“With deep care and urgency, we continuously work to create the kind of store environment that partners and customers expect of Starbucks,” the company said in an official statement.