Starbucks is closing a store in Ithaca, N.Y., in what Starbucks union organizers are calling an illegal move of retaliation after workers at the location voted to unionize.
The coffee giant gave the employees at the College Ave. location near Cornell University a one-week notice of the closure, the union says, with the store slated to permanently close on June 10.
It was one of three Starbucks locations in Ithaca that voted to unionize on April 8.
Workers at the College Ave. location previously went on a one-day strike in April for what the union says were unsafe working conditions — “a waste emergency caused by the overflowing grease trap.” Starbucks later cited the grease trap as reason for shuttering the location, according to the union.
“This is clearly retaliation for our small grasps at dignity as workers, but our strike showed them what power we have,” Benjamin South, an employee at the College Ave. location, said in a statement.
A union committee says it’s filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that Starbucks is closing the store to retaliate against worker activities that are protected by labor laws.
The union also alleges Starbucks acted in violation of its legal obligations to bargain over store closure, and that the company closed the store to discourage other workers from unionizing.
Starbucks did not immediately respond to NPR’s request for comment.
A Starbucks spokesperson told Bloomberg that the closure was unrelated to unionization and was instead based on facilities, staffing and time and attendance issues.
“We open and close stores as a regular part of our operations,” spokesperson Reggie Borges told the site Friday. “With deep care and urgency we continuously work to create the kind of store environment that partners and customers expect of Starbucks. Our goal is to ensure that every partner is supported in their individual situation, and we have immediate opportunities available in the market.”
Starbucks stores across the country have seen a surge of union organizing in the past several months, with more than 230 Starbucks stores filing petitions for union elections and some 50 stores voting to join the national union Workers United between December and early May.