Regulators want to force Starbucks to reopen six locations in LA

Federal labor regulators want to force Starbucks to reopen six Starbucks stores in the Los Angeles area and 17 other locations that closed across the country in 2022, allegedly to stifle union organizing.

The complaint, filed by the National Labor Relations Board, accused Starbucks of closing stores where workers participated in union activities and failing to engage in collective bargaining with unionized stores. Eight of the 23 stores had active unions at the time of their closure.

The NLRB said Starbucks should reopen the 23 stores and rehire employees who were transferred to other locations, left the company or lost their jobs as a result of the closures. Employees should also be compensated for lost earnings and benefits, as well as time they may have spent looking for a new job.

“This complaint is the latest confirmation of Starbucks’ determination to illegally resist union organizing,” Mari Cosgrove, a member of Starbucks Workers United in Seattle, said in a statement.

The NLRB complaint “expands the litany of complaints detailed in the company’s own report,” which was released Wednesday, Cosgrove said. “If Starbucks has made serious attempts to develop a different relationship with its partners in recent days, then this is exactly the type of illegal behavior it must stop.”

That report, an independent assessment of the company’s labor practices that partners requested in March against the company’s recommendation, found no evidence of an “anti-union playbook” that suggested “secret means of undermining employees’ freedom of choice.” Additionally, “missteps” in the way Starbucks handles unionized workers have been blamed largely on the company’s lack of preparation for a wave of unionization and on mistakes made by front-line employees who had no experience dealing with unions.

Starbucks has until December. 27 to respond to the complaint.

A Starbucks spokesperson, in an emailed statement, referred to comments earlier this month from Sara Trilling, executive vice president of Starbucks North America, who said the company continues to open and close stores to strengthen its portfolio.

“As part of our operations, we evaluate the store portfolio each year to determine where we can best meet the needs of our community and our customers,” she said in a statement. “This includes opening new locations, identifying stores in need of investment or renovation, identifying locations where an alternative format is needed and, in some cases, reassessing our footprint.”

The six Greater Los Angeles stores affected by the complaint are located at:

  • 8595 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069
  • 5453 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90027
  • 120 S. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles, CA 90012
  • 6290 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028
  • 1601 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401
  • 232 E. 2nd St., Los Angeles, CA 90012

Former employees of a closed Starbucks location in Kansas City targeted in the complaint told the Kansas City Star that they had only minutes notice when their store suddenly closed on the August afternoon. February 22, 2022. They believed the store, one of the first Starbucks locations in the city to attempt unionization, was shut down to stop unionization efforts.

“Given our close election, I think Starbucks decided to close the store because they thought it would be easier to just close the store than have to deal with this,” said barista Josh Crowell.

Crowell was among about 10 workers who stood outside the store to protest its closure in August. Workers were told they would receive their final paycheck this week and would hear from management about their options for reassignment.

At the time, a Starbucks spokesman said the store was closed due to safety issues and crime in the area.

Police records from the three months before the closure showed seven calls in the area. These included an administrative call and one for an armed attack. None of the calls resulted in the officers filing a police report.

An administrative hearing in the case is scheduled for August. 20. 2024.

Tribune News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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