Photo: Orlando Dispatch
Employees at Starbucks stores in Ithaca, New York, are claiming that their store is being closed due to union activism.
The worker committee states that it is filing an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that Starbucks is performing a “clear attempt to scare workers across the country,” said a press release from the Starbucks Workers United.
As per their press release, the beverage giant announced that the College Avenue store near Cornell University would be shutting down next week.
Notably, all three Starbucks stores in Ithaca voted to be unionized this year. This is the company’s first time seeing a fully-organized city with such status across the United States.
Workers at the College Avenue location made a strike on April 16, alleging “unsafe working conditions” because of a “waste emergency” due to overspill in a grease trap, according to the union.
The store barista, Nadia Vitek, said that the grease trap had been an issue for some time now, and it made a terrible smell which customers could also notice. They added that there was oil on the shop’s floor.
“Now they’re closing the store, and the only concrete reason that they’re giving us is the grease trap,” Vitek stated. “And it feels blatant when you connect the dots.”
On Friday, the district manager organized a meeting with all workers to inform them that their store would be closing soon, said Vitek.
“I was shaking as I was hearing them say the news,” Vitek stated. “They didn’t even explain in the call that it was a permanent closure. I got that in an email from the anti-union lawyer that Starbucks has.”
A Starbucks spokesperson stated that the giant opens and closes locations under its regular operations strategy. However, they did not provide any reasons behind the Ithaca closure.
“Our goal is to ensure that every partner is supported in their individual situation, and we have immediate opportunities available in the market.”
But Starbucks staff at the branch are worried that they will not have enough hours, with other locations in this area already scrambling.
“Starbucks is continuing a divide-and-conquer strategy. But, you know, even though we’re grieving, we’re all ready to fight,” Vitek continued.
The Workers United alliance of the Service Employees International Union is fighting back against Starbucks. The group has made several complaints opposing this major corporation and its treatment of employees.
“It’s a violation of federal labor law to close a store because workers exercised their legal rights,” an attorney of Starbucks Workers United, Ian Hayes, said in a statement. “We… have no doubt the NLRB will prosecute the company for this illegal union-busting, and justice will be done.”
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