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Starbucks workers claim their store is closing due to union activism

The workers’ committee said it was filing an indictment for unfair work practices with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that Starbucks was making a “clear attempt to intimidate workers across the country”, according to a press release from Starbucks Workers United.

On Friday, Starbucks employees at the College Avenue location near Cornell University informed that the store will close in a week, according to the press release.

In April, all three Starbucks locations in Ithaca voted to organize, making Ithaca the company’s first fully-fledged city in the United States, according to the union’s press release.

On April 16, workers at the College Avenue store went on strike, claiming “unsafe working conditions”[ads1]; due to a “waste emergency” caused by a crowded fat trap, the union said.

Nadia Vitek, a barista at the soon-to-be-closed site, claimed that the grease trap had been an ongoing problem and created a “terrible” odor that even customers could notice. They said there was oil all over the store floor.

“Now they are closing the store, and the only concrete reason they are giving us is the fat trap,” Vitek said. “And it feels obvious when you connect the dots.”

On Friday, the store’s district manager held a meeting with employees at Microsoft Teams to announce the store’s closure, Vitek said.

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“I was shaking when I heard them say the news,” Vitek said. “They did not even explain in the conversation that it was a permanent closure. I received it in an email from the anti-union lawyer that Starbucks has.”

A spokesman for the company said that Starbucks opens and closes stores as part of normal operations. They did not comment on specific reasons for the Ithaca closure, or answered questions beyond the statement.

“Our local, regional and national leaders have worked with humility, deep care and urgency to create the kind of store environment that partners and customers expect from Starbucks,” said the Starbucks spokesman. “Our goal is to ensure that each partner is supported in their individual situation and we have immediate opportunities available in the market.”

But some Starbucks workers at the site are worried about having enough hours, as the other stores in the area are already struggling, Vitek said.

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“Starbucks continues a split-and-rule strategy. But, you know, even if we grieve, we’re all ready to fight,” Vitek said.

Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union that supports Starbucks employees, has also filed dozens of complaints against the coffee giant.

“It is a violation of federal labor law to close a store because workers exercised their legal rights,” Ian Hayes, a lawyer for Starbucks Workers United, wrote in a statement to CNN Business. “We … have no doubt that the NLRB will prosecute the company for this illegal union, and justice will be done.”

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