Starbucks Staff Say the Company Closes Stores Due to Union Activism

Photo: Orlando Dispatch

The Starbucks in Ithaca, New York, is closing due to the company’s union activism, say employees. 

The worker committee says it is filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that Starbucks is performing a “clear attempt to scare workers across the country,” said a press release from the Starbucks Workers United. 

The beverage behemoth announced to its workers that the College Avenue location close to Cornell University would be closing in a week. 

In a move that will make it easier for workers, Starbucks outlets in Ithaca have voted to unionize. This marks the company’s first fully-unionized city of its kind and sets an important precedent. 

Employees at the College Avenue location made a strike on April 16, alleging “unsafe working conditions” because of a “waste emergency” due to an overspill in a grease trap, according to the union. 

According to the store barista Nadia Vitek, there have been issues with the grease trap at the location for some time now, making an awful smell that customers can also notice. In addition, they said there was oil on our floor.

“Now they’re closing the store, and the only concrete reason that they’re giving us is the grease trap,” Vitek stated. “And it feels blatant when you connect the dots.” 

The district manager organized a meeting with all of the workers on Friday to inform them that their store will be closing soon, as per Vitek.

“I was shaking as I was hearing them say the news,” Vitek stated. “They didn’t even explain in the call that it was a permanent closure. I got that in an email from the anti-union lawyer that Starbucks has.” 

A Starbucks spokesperson stated that the giant opens and closes locations under its regular operations strategy. However, they did not provide any reasons behind the Ithaca closure. 

“Our goal is to ensure that every partner is supported in their individual situation, and we have immediate opportunities available in the market.” 

However, Starbucks staff at the branch are worried that they won’t have enough hours. The other locations in this area already seem to be scrambling.

“Starbucks is continuing a divide-and-conquer strategy. But, you know, even though we’re grieving, we’re all ready to fight,” Vitek continued. 

The Workers United alliance of the Service Employees International Union has submitted a series of complaints to Starbucks over their poor working conditions.

“It’s a violation of federal labor law to close a store because workers exercised their legal rights,” an attorney of Starbucks Workers United, Ian Hayes, said in a statement. “We… have no doubt the NLRB will prosecute the company for this illegal union-busting, and justice will be done.”

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