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Starbucks Workers Claim Chicago Shop’s Closure Is Union Retaliation

The Edgewater shop, one of the first in the nation to unionize, is set to close in two weeks

Starbucks Corp. Cafe As Growth Remains Sluggish
The company has shut down multiple cafes with union activity in the U.S. with.

As pro-union Starbucks workers in Chicago and across the country continue a widespread push for labor organizing, the coffee giant has announced plans to close the cafe on the day before Halloween in Edgewater on the city’s North Side.

Mangement says the shop will close on Sunday, October 30 — just four days before workers began the bargaining process on their first union contract, workers tell Block Club Chicago. A Starbucks rep denies the explanation, telling reporters the closure was due to unspecified safety concerns for both employees and patrons. But employees and organizers from Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union, say they suspect the closure has more to do with the fast-approaching bargaining date of Wednesday, October 26, according to the Sun-Times.

The location, at 1070 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, was among the first Chicago locations to win a union election with a 10 to 1 vote in May. Several employees told reporters that they see the closure as retaliation for their successful union campaign by transferring employees to other stores with few details on hours and travel costs. Workers United contends that the shutdown is also part of a pattern at Starbucks, which has closed 10 locations where organizing was taking place. The group has filed charges of unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Workers United is arguing that the spate of closures in unionized cafes violates the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, a foundational labor law statute that guarantees the right of workers to form unions and bargain collectively. In March, the NLRB found that acclaimed Chicago bakery Lost Larson disregarded the statute and illegally fired a worker as retaliation for participating in organizing her workplace. The settlement between the parties stipulated that management will not fire or “interfere with the right of employees to freely bring issues and complaints regarding safety, wages, communications, training and other terms/conditions of employment to the Employer on behalf of themselves and other employees.”

In other cases, however, retaliation can be difficult to prove. In 2020, several terminated employees at Colectivo Coffee, a Wisconsin-based chain with five Chicago-area locations, filed charges claiming their firings were retribution for their involvement in the Colectivo union organizing committee. The NLRB found that these allegations were without merit, but pro-labor Colectivo workers ultimately prevailed in August 2021 and formed the largest unionized workforce at a U.S. coffee chain.


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