Union claims Starbucks illegally closing cafe to retail, Bloomberg experiences

A pro-union poster is seen on a lamp pole outside Starbucks’ Broadway and Denny location in Seattle’s Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood on March 22, 2022.

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The workers union at Starbucks is claiming the coffee chain is shutting down a recently unionized cafe in retaliation for its activist efforts.

It’s the latest escalation between a rapidly growing national labor movement and the coffee giant.

Workers United, the union that’s backing organizing efforts at Starbucks, said in a Friday filing with the National Labor Relations Board that Starbucks is violating federal labor law by permanently closing an Ithaca, New York, store. The group alleged it was in retaliation since employees at the location voted to unionize in April.

The Ithica store employees say they originally went on strike for unsafe working conditions on Apr. 16. Workers walked out due to a waste emergency caused by the overflowing grease trap, according to the union’s statement. In an email to the union’s bargaining committee, Starbucks cited the grease trap as the reason for the store closure.

The union committee alleges that Starbucks closed the store in retail for activity protected by federal labor law and to stop workers elsewhere from organizing. “It is a clear attempt to scare workers across the country by retaliating against its own employees,” the committee said in a statement.

Starbucks said that it opens and closes stores “as a regular part” of its operations. “Our goal is to ensure that every partner is supported in their individual situation, and we have immediate opportunities available in the market,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in an email to CNBC.

The union is asking the agency to seek a federal court injunction to quickly prevent or reverse the store closure.

Around 100 Starbucks cafes have voted to unionize under Workers United, while only 14 locations have voted against unionizing. Workers United announced this week it was creating a $1 million fund to cover lost pay for baristas who go on strike.

Workers United has filed at least 175 complaints against the coffee chain for unfair labor practices, CNBC previously reported. Starbucks has denied doing wrong.

The workers union claims were first reported by Bloomberg News.

— CNBC’s Amelia Lucas contributed to this report.

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