Starbucks closure of unionized cafe ‘blatant act of war’ says union leader

Starbucks is accused of permanently closing a location in upstate New York in retaliation for its union efforts.

On Friday, the Workers United union filed a complaint against the coffee giant with the US National Labor Relations Board. In it, they alleged that the company illegally closed a location in Ithaca, New York, in response to union efforts there, Bloomberg reported.

The accusation comes as a growing number of Starbucks locations across the country are successfully unionizing, leading to perceived animosity between unions and the company. Interim CEO Howard Schultz said in April that Starbucks “is being attacked in many ways by the threat of unionization.” A spokesman said earlier news week that the company prefers to work directly with workers “as partners, without a union between us”.

Closure of Starbucks unions
Starbucks is accused of closing a location in Ithaca, New York, in retaliation for its unionized workers. Above is a shot of employees protesting outside a Starbucks location in Seattle.
Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The Ithaca site, near Ivy League Cornell University, successfully voted to organize in April. Gary Bonadonna Jr., a regional leader for Workers United, called Starbucks’ decision to close the location “a blatant act of war.” The union is asking the Labor Relations Board to seek a federal court injunction that could stop or reverse the closure.

“We have her back,” Bonadonna told Bloomberg.

“Starbucks will not get away with such retaliation against us,” Evan Sunshine, one of the store’s employees, said in a statement sent to Bloomberg by the union. “Whatever it takes, however long it takes, we will persevere.”

Sent to in response to complaint news week, Starbucks denied the closure was related to union activity. Instead, they claimed it was due to issues related to attendance, staff and facilities. A spokesman said so too news week that closing the site was a common practice for the company.

“We open and close stores as a regular part of our business operations,” Starbucks said in its response. “Our local, regional and national leaders have worked with humility, great care and urgency to create the kind of business environment that partners and customers have come to expect from Starbucks. Our aim is to ensure that each partner is supported in their individual situation. and we have immediate opportunities in the market.”

After organizing, workers at the Ithaca store went on a day-long strike over unsafe working conditions. A grease trap had reportedly overflowed, covering parts of the floor with sewage and oil. A Starbucks lawyer referenced the issue in an email to the union, discussing the impact the store closure would have on employees.

“As you know, there have been many issues related to the condition of the store (e.g. the grease trap) and there is no point in continuing to operate the store,” wrote attorney Alan Model.

Updated 6/4/2022 1:45 PM: This article was updated to reflect a response from Starbucks. Starbucks closure of unionized cafe ‘blatant act of war’ says union leader

Rick Schindler

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