Starbucks is closing 16 US outlets over safety complaints

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Image Source: Thrillist

Starbucks announced on Monday that it is closing 16 of its shops nationwide after receiving reports of drug usage at a few of its sites from employees.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Seattle-based coffee chain announced it would permanently close the six locations in Seattle, six in Los Angeles, two in Portland, one in Philadelphia, and one in Washington, D.C., by the end of the month. Employees will be relocated to other locations. 

In response to safety concerns, Starbucks is also implementing a variety of additional safety precautions, such as granting store managers the authority to close restrooms, restrict seating, scale back operations, and even alter store layouts. Starbucks will also train baristas in conflict de-escalation techniques and how to handle an active shooter situation. 

While the business claims that the decision to down the stores is in line with regulations intended to allay worker worries about workplace safety, some of the closing sites also happen to be those where Starbucks staff just voted to unionize. 

The Associated Press stated that a Portland, Oregon location just filed a petition to have a union ballot, while two of the Seattle businesses that will be closed recently decided to unionize. Just weeks after voting to unionize, Starbucks also closed a location in Ithica, New York, last month due to operational issues. 

Despite actively opposing unionization efforts, the National Labor Relations Board reports that more than 189 of the approximately 9,000 U.S. Starbucks locations have voted to unionize since late last year. 

Officials at Starbucks informed the reporters that the recent closures had nothing to do with attempts at unionization. 

In collaboration “outreach” sessions, where Starbucks employees from various levels of the company come together to address pain issues in their daily job, the subject of worker safety concerns first came up on the radar. 

Outreach programs started after CEO Howard Schultz returned to the organization earlier this year and “came as Starbucks is implementing a business-wide change drive,” according to a statement on the company website. After Kevin Johnson, who was appointed CEO in 2017, retired from his job on April 4, 2022, Schultz resumed his duties as CEO. 

By the fall, Starbucks is anticipated to choose a permanent CEO replacement, who will assume control of the company by the start of the following year.