Starbucks is closing 16 locations over workplace safety concerns

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Starbucks is closing 16 stores in cities across the country, citing fears its customers and employees are unsafe, even though the company has been trained in skills like conflict de-escalation, using an active gunman and engaging with community and emergency services.

“We are closing stores in some locations that have experienced many challenging incidents that make it difficult to create a safe and welcoming environment,” a Washington Post spokesman said.

The closures include six locations in Los Angeles, six in and around Seattle, two in Portland, Oregon, one in Philadelphia and the Union Station store in Washington, DC

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Though the spokeswoman declined to identify individual incidents that led to the closures, Starbucks executives acknowledged Monday that workers in the neighborhoods where they operate have encountered a spate of problems, some of which some related to drug use, mental health and racism.

“You… see firsthand the challenges facing our communities — personal safety, racism, lack of access to health care, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use and more,” wrote Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, both senior vice presidents of US operations, in a letter to staff. “We know that sometimes these challenges can also arise in our branches. We read every incident report you submit – that’s a lot.”

They wrote that the company could take steps such as closing bathrooms – which are normally open to the public – or closing stores altogether. Affected employees will be given the opportunity to be transferred to nearby locations, the spokeswoman said.

Nearly 150 Starbucks stores across the country have registered for a union election since the first Buffalo store filed in December 2021. (Video: James Cornsilk, Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)

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It’s not uncommon for Starbucks to close — and open — locations, although the reason for closing such a large number seems novel to the company. According to its most recent annual report, Starbucks operates 8,941 stores across the United States. In the last financial year, 424 branches were closed, although 449 were opened and 19 branches were relocated during the same period.

Two of the Seattle locations slated for closure are among those that recently unionized. Another of the 16, one of the Portland stores, had requested a union ballot. The push to unionize Starbucks workers, reportedly rolled out at 133 stores so far, began in Buffalo last year as part of a renewed interest in organizing by workers across a range of industries.

Competing for workers, Starbucks has recently embarked on what CEO Howard Shultz has described as the company’s “major reinvention,” though it’s not yet clear what such a transformation would look like. “We need to modernize and transform the Starbucks experience in our stores and create an environment that is relevant, welcoming and safe,” he wrote in a letter to workers Monday.

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https://www.washingtonpost.com/food/2022/07/13/starbucks-closures-worker-safety/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_lifestyle Starbucks is closing 16 locations over workplace safety concerns

Chris Estrada

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