Starbucks union to bring lawsuit against company, disputes reason for closures

Jul 15, 2022, 2:45 PM

(Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)...

(Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)

After Starbucks closed 16 locations across the country, with increased crime as the cited reason, several workers at unionized locations came forward claiming that there have not been any crime concerns and that this is just a tactic to shut down unionized stores.

Five of the stores being shut down are in the city of Seattle, located at:

  • 1600 E Olive Way
  • 2300 S Jackson
  • 400 Pine
  • 6417 Roosevelt Way NE
  • 505 5th Ave S

Of these locations, 505 5th Ave and 1600 E Olive Way have voted to unionize with Starbucks Workers United, a national union representing Starbucks baristas.

Starbucks closes 5 Seattle locations, more across the nation, citing increased crime

The workers say that they were not notified of the closures until they showed up for a meeting Monday afternoon, with several saying that they first heard of the closures through media outlets after the announcement.

“After being notified, partners were expected to simply show up and work continuously with no additional support, with unanswered questions, and face the community they had served for over 20 years,” a worker who wished to remain anonymous said.

According to crime statistics released by the Seattle Police Department, most locations have not seen an increase in the number of police reports filed at the stores, with the exception of the Westlake Center location at 4th & Pine, where property crimes on that block shot up to 134 this year compared to 39 last year.

The closing location in Ravenna at 6417 Roosevelt Way has had a decrease in police reports, going from nine in 2019, to six filed last year, to just three this year.

This has led to workers accusing the company of using rising crime rates citywide as an excuse to shut down unionized locations.

“Starbucks is lying. The inclusion is surface level, and this corporation wants to scare its workers out of organizing,” said Mari Cosgrove, an employee at the unionized location at 505 5th Ave. “Like a cornered animal, Starbucks is desperate and knows it is losing this fight. We won’t let up the pressure now, and we hope others will do the same.”

When asked about the crime statistics that Starbucks used in its decisions, a spokesperson said they could not provide that information. The spokesperson did say that the company was looking at more than just police reports when it made these decisions, but that they talked to employees and managers to assess the overall impact of crime anecdotally rather than using only facts and figures.

The spokesperson also pointed to the fact that locations open and close all the time, and only three out of the 16 locations that are being closed are unionized.

“Claims of union busting are false. We regularly open and close stores as a standard part of our business operations,” a Starbucks spokesperson said. “We apply the same focus on safety at unionized and non-union stores and are closing non-union stores where we are similarly challenged in providing a safe environment for our customer and partner experience.”

The union will ask the National Labor Relations Board to step in and investigate the closures and whether they could constitute union busting, according to Marina Multhaup, a lawyer for Seattle Starbucks Workers United.

“The Union will be filing charges and asking the government to investigate whether Starbucks violated federal labor law when it announced these store closures,” Multhaup said. “Recently in Seattle, Starbucks partners at seven stores went on strike partially in protest of safety conditions. Then Starbucks announced it was closing eight stores in the area. If Starbucks truly cared about its partners’ safety, it would bargain about ways to ensure their protection, not displace workers by closing stores.”

Starbucks workers go on strike over ‘union busting activity’

Similar allegations were filed when Starbucks announced the reorganization of locations to prepare for its new Heritage Market. A similar investigation is currently being done by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for nearly 200 labor law violations in Buffalo, New York.

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Starbucks union to bring lawsuit against company, disputes reason for closures