Photo: Orlando Dispatch
Employees at Starbucks in Ithaca, New York, are organizing, and activism is what’s causing the store closure.
The worker committee 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.
The beverage giant announced to its workers in its College Avenue location near Cornell University on Friday that it will be closing soon.
The three Starbucks stores in Ithaca voted to be unionized this month, making it the first fully-organized city of its kind among its locations in the US.
Staff at the College Avenue location made a strike on April 16, alleging “unsafe working conditions” because of a “waste emergency” due to an overspill in a grease trap, according to the union.
The store barista, Nadia Vitek, said that the grease trap had been giving off an awful smell for some time now, and customers also noticed oil on their 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.”
The district manager for the store recently organized an employee meeting to let them know about the closing of one store, in particular, stated 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.”
Yet, Starbucks staff at the branch are worried that they won’t 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 is fighting back against Starbucks. They’ve made some complaints opposed to the beverage giant, and it looks like they’re going strong.
“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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