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Starbucks union announces coffee giant is closing store in retaliation: NPR

Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks employees union election in December in Buffalo, NY Starbucks union organizers say the company is closing a New York store to retaliate.

Joshua Bessex/AP


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Joshua Bessex/AP


Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks employees union election in December in Buffalo, NY Starbucks union organizers say the company is closing a New York store to retaliate.

Joshua Bessex/AP

Starbucks is closing a store in Ithaca, NY, in what Starbucks union organizers are calling an illegal retaliatory move after workers at the location voted to unionize.

The coffee giant gave employees of the College Ave. near Cornell University a week’s notice of the closure, according to the union, with the store set to close permanently on June 10.

It was one of three Starbucks locations in Ithaca that voted to unionize April 8.

Workers at the College Ave. had previously called a one-day strike in April over what the union calls unsafe working conditions – “a waste emergency caused by the overflowing grease trap”. Starbucks later cited the grease trap as the reason for closing the location, according to the union.

“This is clearly retaliation for our low dignity as workers, but our strike has shown them our power,” Benjamin South, an employee at the College Ave. site, said in a statement.

A union committee said it was filing an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging Starbucks was closing the store in retaliation for workers’ activities protected by labor laws.

The union also alleges that Starbucks acted in breach of its legal obligations to negotiate the store closure and that the company closed the store to discourage other workers from unionizing.

Starbucks did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.

A Starbucks spokesperson told Bloomberg that the closure was unrelated to unionization and was instead based on issues of facilities, personnel, and time and attendance.

“We are opening and closing stores as part of our regular operations,” spokesman Reggie Borges told the site on Friday. “With deep care and urgency, we are constantly working to create the kind of store environment that partners and customers expect from Starbucks. Our goal is to ensure that each partner is supported in their individual situation, and we have immediate opportunities available in the market.”

Starbucks stores across the country have seen a flurry of labor organizing in recent months, with more than 230 Starbucks stores filing petitions for union elections and about 50 stores voting to join the national Workers United union between December and may’s beginning.