On Friday, June 10, Starbucks started acting upon its recently announced intentions to permanently close its College Avenue location. Workers are now contesting this decision and the legality of the store closure.
On June 8, Ithaca community members and Starbucks Workers United, workers’ union at Starbucks, gathered in front of the College Avenue store to protest against the closure. Through its social media platform, Starbucks Workers United accused Starbucks of allegedly closing the College Avenue store location as a form of retaliation.
“Starbucks is trying to close the unionized College Ave store in Ithaca. The reason they’re giving [for closure]? The grease trap that workers went on strike to demand Starbucks fix last month,” the Starbucks Workers United account wrote. “This is clear retaliation for Ithaca workers.”
Starbucks workers voiced that the store closure came as a shock, given the store was a staple to not only Cornell but also Ithaca community members. However, the alleged pattern of retaliation and union busting tactics by Starbucks made the decision less surprising.
“I think there was a lot of shock,” said Starbucks employee Evan Sunshine ’24. “But we weren’t surprised that Starbucks would pull something like this because they have been using several underhanded tactics to take advantage of the union and fearmonger to discourage unionization.”
Sunshine claimed that Starbucks is using the store closure as a scare tactic to discourage further unionization at other stores.
“I think they are trying to make an example out of us,” Sunshine said. “They are trying to set a message that if you unionize we are going to close your stores.”
During an interview with the New York Times, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz commented that he would not engage with unions and that unionization of Starbucks stores would significantly challenge the customer experience Starbucks seeks to provide as a company.
Mike Dolce, the attorney representing the interests of Starbucks Workers United, wrote to The Sun that Schultz’s comment is inappropriate and potentially unlawful.
“The law requires employers to bargain in good faith with employees that choose to unionize,” Dolce wrote. “How can a company bargain in good faith if its CEO uses his platform to say the company will never ‘embrace’ the union?”
Additional charges are being filed against Starbucks, and the National Labor Relations Board is to review those cases.
“We have filed Board charges claiming such comments violate the duty to bargain in good faith,” Dolce said. “We also allege that these comments are unlawful statements of futility and that they act as a threat against any employees considering unionizing at this very moment and in the future.”
With college students having left for summer break, Ithaca local community members are taking actions to challenge Starbucks’ decision to close the store. The most recent efforts have included the organization of press conferences, store sit-ins and city-wide boycotts against Starbucks.