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Regulators seek to force Starbucks to reopen six L.A. stores

Federal labor regulators are looking to force Starbucks to reopen six Los Angeles-area Starbucks stores and 17 other locations that were closed across the country in 2022 in a move that was allegedly done to suppress union organizing.

The complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board accused Starbucks of closing stores where workers had engaged in union activity and failing to participate in collective bargaining with unionized stores. Of the 23 stores, eight had active unions at the time they were closed.

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

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

The NLRB complaint “adds to the litany of complaints detailed in the company’s own report” released Wednesday, Cosgrove said. “If Starbucks is sincere in its overtures in recent days to forge a different relationship with its partners, this is exactly the kind of illegal behavior it needs to stop.”

That report, a third-party assessment of the company’s labor practices that shareholders requested in March against the company’s recommendation, found no evidence of an “antiunion playbook” suggesting “surreptitious means of interfering with employees’ freedom to choose.” It also ascribed “missteps” in how Starbucks has engaged with unionized workers mostly to the company’s lack of preparation for a wave of organizing, and to mistakes by local staff with no experience dealing with unions.

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

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

“Each year as a standard course of business, we evaluate the store portfolio to determine where we can best meet our community and customers’ needs,” she said in a statement. “This includes opening new locations, identifying stores in need of investment or renovation, exploring locations where an alternative format is needed and, in some instances, re-evaluating our footprint.”

The six Los Angeles-area stores involved in the complaint are 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 Kansas City Starbuck location included in the complaint told the Kansas City Star that they had just a few minutes notice when their store was suddenly closed the afternoon of Aug. 22, 2022. They believed the store, one of the first Starbucks locations in the city to attempt unionization, was shut down to halt the efforts to unionize.

“With our tight election, I think Starbucks decided to shut down the store because they thought it was easier just to shut down the store than to have to deal with that,” barista Josh Crowell said.

Crowell was among about 10 workers who picketed outside the store to protest the closing in August. Workers were told they’d receive their last paycheck that week and hear their options for reassignment from management.

At the time, a Starbucks spokesperson said the store closed because of safety issues and crime in the area.

Police records from the three months leading up to the closing showed seven calls to the area. They included an administrative call and one for an armed assault. None of the calls resulted in officers filing a police report.

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

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


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