Starbucks labor leaders say CEO Howard Schultz is escalating the war against their union by closing 16 stores across the country at the end of this month.
The Wall Street Journal originally reported last week on the closings, citing safety concerns at many locations.
In a leaked video posted to Twitter last week, Mr. Schultz elaborated on the reasons for closing the stores, making it clear that the stores closing were profitable.
“It has shocked me that one of the primary concerns our retail partners have is their own personal safety,” Mr. Schultz said in the leaked video.
Labor leaders are not buying it, asserting in a statement that the real motivation behind closing stores is to stop the momentum of worker organization in their stores.
“Every decision Starbucks makes must be viewed through the lens of the company’s unprecedented and virulent union-busting campaign. It is simply not credible for the company to argue that this was not a response to the growing union movement spreading across the country,” Starbucks Workers United said in a statement.
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Starbucks under Mr. Schultz has come under fire for its public anti-union stance as stores around the country begin to organize, starting with a store in Buffalo.
Mr. Schultz has called the unionization effort an outside force that seeks to invade the company in an attempt to disrupt and divide its workers.
Some of the stores that are closing have already begun organizing efforts, mostly the locations on the west coast.
Starbucks Workers United cited a Portland, Oregon, store as a clear-cut example of union-busting and said crime concerns hadn’t resulted in other store safety reforms short of closure.
“Here on our home turf, where we remain undefeated in union elections (13-0), Starbucks is targeting the 4th and Morrison store for closure, citing ‘safety concerns.’ It’s clear to anyone that has worked at Starbucks that the company doesn’t prioritize our safety until it behooves them; that is, they won’t make alterations to store operations until after we have filed for union election and an equal voice in our daily operations,” the union said.
According to Starbucks, employees at the closing stores will be transferred to other stores in the area.
Starbucks has remained adamant that the reason for closing the stores is rising crime in major cities. Mr. Schultz specifically pointed the finger at political leadership.
“In my view at the local, state and federal level, these governments across the country and leaders, mayors, and governors and city councils have abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental illness.” Mr. Schultz said in the video.
Mr. Schultz’s comments are similar to many made by citizens and politicians who say major U.S. cities are lawless places filled with drug use and constant violence. The ending of the pandemic has seen an influx of gun violence and high-profile robberies in many of the cities where Starbucks is closing stores.
Along with closing locations, Starbucks announced that it is giving more power to local management on such safety-related matters as restricting bathroom use, arranging seating layouts and adjusting store hours.