Starbucks closes unionized stores days before Christmas: ‘Cartoon Villains’

Mandie Cantrell, a Starbucks barista in Maine, was “devastated” to learn the conglomerate will close her shop – less than a month after voting for a union.

“Honestly, it was just the worst day of my life,” Cantrell said news week. Her Portland, Maine coffee shop is the state’s first Starbucks and has been on Middle and Exchange Streets since 1995.

“It hurts a lot of us because we all love our store so much,” she said. “We have so many memories there and we know the community has so many memories there.”

Starbucks Workers United Maine has claimed that Starbucks retaliated against Portland workers who voted to organize on Oct. 17.

“I’m heartbroken,” the union tweeted on Tuesday. “We learned today that @Starbucks is closing its Portland location on Middle and Exchange Streets that just voted to unionize. They gave the partners a month to find new jobs. This is blatant union busting.”

The shop will close permanently on December 23, just before the Christmas holidays. Cantrell said the timing was “reckless.”

“It really shows how soulless and heartless Starbucks really is that they would do that — and literally throw us all out on December 23,” she said. “You are absolutely cruel. They’re like cartoon villains.”

This was announced by a Starbucks spokesman news week The chain routinely reviews “the partner and customer experience” at all locations, which led to the closure of the Portland store. Starbucks didn’t confirm exactly why the store underperformed.

“We will be negotiating in good faith with the union to discuss the impact of this decision on partners, including opportunities for transfers to other businesses,” the spokesman said.

Starbucks workers on strike in New York
Here Starbucks workers go on strike over alleged unsanitary working conditions at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery in the Meatpacking District of New York City, New York on November 2, 2022. Starbucks is closing a store in Portland, Maine less than a month after voting for a union.
Andrew Lichtenstein/Staff/Corbis News

According to Cantrell, the rationale given to employees was the other way around. Management first said the store was underperforming — then they backed down, citing problems with the lease, she said.

“It’s kind of weird that they seem to be coming back to a lot of what they’ve told us before,” Cantrell said. “So it seems very strange, and it doesn’t really make much sense. It feels like they gave us excuses, they didn’t really give us reasons.”

Portland workers aren’t the first to accuse Starbucks of retaliating against union organizers by shutting down its store. In October, a Chicago store shut down four days after its employees were due to start negotiating their first collective bargaining agreement — although Starbucks said the decision was based on “safety concerns,” according to Block Club Chicago.

In August, the closure of two stores in Seattle, Washington, and Kansas City, Missouri, also sparked alarm among union leaders who said Starbucks was trying to silence organizing efforts, CNBC reported.

And in June, Starbucks Workers United filed a complaint against the coffee giant with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), alleging that the company illegally closed a store in Ithaca, New York, in response to local workers who were unionizing wanted to organize.

A wave of unionization swept across the country this year, with more than 250 Starbucks locations voting for a union since the first location in Buffalo, New York, was unionized last December. On Thursday, Starbucks workers went on strike at over 100 stores during the company’s annual “Red Cup Day.” The workers were walking not only for better working conditions but also to protest alleged union busting and retaliation, union leaders said. Starbucks closes unionized stores days before Christmas: ‘Cartoon Villains’

Rick Schindler

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