Starbucks to close 16 stores, citing safety

By COLIN STAUB

Starbucks on July 11 announced plans to close 16 locations across the country by July 31, including two in Portland. At the 401 SW Morrison St. store in Portland, the closure comes just days before ballots are counted for a union election. The other Portland store, at 10112 NE Halsey St., doesn’t have a union campaign.

Starbucks is also closing six stores in Washington, including two unionized locations: 505 5th Ave. S. and 1600 E Olive Way in Seattle. (One of the Seattle closures is a store that voted against unionizing.)

Executives said the closures are about worsening public safety. “Modifying operations, closing a restroom, or even closing a store permanently” is an option when a store can’t maintain safety, senior vice presidents Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson wrote to workers July 11.

For Starbucks Workers United, the timing made the 4th and Morrison closure a clear escalation in union busting, particularly because organizing workers say the company hasn’t taken action on safety in the past.

“It is 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’ve filed for union election and an equal voice in our daily operations,” the union’s Portland chapter said in a statement. 

Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges told the Labor Press that the company will bargain with the unionized stores to reach an agreement that “gives all partners the ability to have continuous employment with no changes in benefits or pay or their average hours worked.” If an agreement is reached, workers would be able to transfer to “agreed upon stores,” Borges added.           

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