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Starbucks to close five Seattle Stores amid unionization efforts: SWU calls bullshit

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Starbucks East Olive Way @starbuckseolive / Instagram
Starbucks East Olive Way @starbuckseolive / Instagram

Starbucks announced on July 11 that it would close five Seattle stores on July 31. Two of those stores have unionized, and there is active union organizing going on the in remaining three.

Starbucks says it needs to close the stores because neighborhood crime makes them unsafe for its employees. The employees say this is another one of the company's union-busting tactics.

The already-unionized stores to be closed are at Union Station and 1600 E. Olive Way. The others are at 23rd Avenue and Jackson Street, 6417 Roosevelt Way NE, and the iconic Westlake Center store.

Workers at the unionized stores were told that they may apply for employment at other Starbucks stores, and they would continue to be represented by the union only if they were hired at other union stores.

Workers at the Union Station store posted notices stating in boldface, all-caps font, "Starbucks is lying. This is not good-faith bargaining, this is union busting."

"We think it is disingenuous for Starbucks to claim they could not provide a safe experience for our workplace when we were routinely denied support offered to other stores with similar concerns," the workers' notice explained.

"We think it is insulting to claim they care about our mental and physical health then threaten the financial safety of every single worker at this location."

Erin Bray, who works at Union Station, told the Seattle Times that she asked management for more security, but Starbucks never hired additional security officers. However, workers generally felt safe there and never thought they needed to close the store, she added.

Now, "I just feel helpless," Bray said.

SEIU, the parent union of Starbucks Workers United, tweeted its support for its Seattle members on July 13.

"At a time when corporations like @Starbucks engage in shameful tactics to intimidate workers seeking to unionize, working people are uniting & winning across the country to send a strong signal that those actions will not be tolerated! #UnionStrong #UnionsForAll," the union said.

Howard Schultz — Photo by Ted S. Warren / AP  

Starbucks has closed or announced plans to close stores in other parts of the country for reasons workers say are specious, and part of a concerted plan to fire union workers.

In June, for example, Starbucks said it would close a unionized store in Ithaca, New York, "for business reasons." Employees there said the store was always busy with customers from nearby Cornell University and Ithaca College, and they were sure the company was closing their store as retaliation for their vote to unionize.

The National Labor Relations Act, a federal law passed in 1935, requires employers to bargain in good faith with their workers' union, and prohibits employers from intimidating or harassing workers who want to form a union.

Starbucks Workers United has filed dozens of unfair labor practices complaints against Starbucks, charging the company with hundreds of individual violations of the National Labor Relations Act.