Regulators want Starbucks to reopen stores closed amid union battles

Federal labor regulators are looking to force Starbucks to reopen stores that were closed across the country in 2022 in a move that was allegedly done to suppress union organizing.  

Eight previously shuttered Seattle-area Starbucks stores could be reopening soon following a complaint from the National Labor Relations Board, which alleges that the coffee giant unlawfully closed 23 union and non-union stores nationwide. 

The complaint filed by the NLRB 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.

NLRB filed a formal complaint on Wednesday accusing the company of closing the stores without prior notice, specifically to suppress or stop union organizing, with eight of those stores falling under union rules.

A manager was accused of telling employees they could not “borrow” shifts at other locations while the employer negotiated with the union about the closures. 

Workers United Starbucks partner Mari Cosgrove released a statement saying, “This complaint is the latest confirmation of Starbucks’ determination to illegally oppose workers’ organizing.”

“We have spent two years at this point, waiting for the NLRB to, with its incredibly limited resources, bring justice to workers who have been wronged. And I really look forward to seeing that happen, but it shouldn’t have taken this long,” said Rachel Ybarra, a barista with the company. 

According to Starbucks, the company opened hundreds of stores and closed more than 100 stores in 2022 because of a list of factors outside of the accusations in the complaint. Those reasons listed included safety, low sales or issues with leases. 

“We firmly believe that these allegations lack merit, and we plan to defend our lawful business decisions at an eventual Administrative Law Judge (NLRB) hearing on the matter,” Starbucks said in a statement. 

The regional NLRB office is expected to try to come to some sort of settlement agreement in the coming days or weeks, and if that effort is unsuccessful the case is expected to go before an NLRB judge by August of this year.