Starbucks union workers say union busting, not safety is the cause for store closures

SEATTLE — Starbucks union workers argue the closing of five Seattle stores is not linked to safety concerns.

More than a dozen employees marched outside the coffee shop on Olive Way in Capitol Hill, which is among the two union shops slated to close. Signs in hand, they chanted that union busting is the true motive.

Starbucks corporate says any claims of retaliation are unequivocally false.

A spokesperson tells KIRO 7 the shops are closing based on how many crime-related complaints were logged at each and that rates of drug use, theft and assault were considered. The spokesperson says the decision has nothing to do with two (Olive Way in Capitol Hill and Fifth Avenue in the International District) of the five locations being union shops.

“We firmly believe that a lot of the stores that they are closing are a convenient scapegoat for them to say, ‘This isn’t union busting. Look, these stores aren’t unionized,’” said barista Brent Hayes. “They had management come in and ask them if they (felt) unsafe. Nobody claimed to feel unsafe, and they were still told that their store is closing due to crime rates.”

Mari Cosgrove supervises the unionized store on Fifth Avenue in the International District. They’ve worked at that location the past four years.

“Starbucks is saying it’s about safety. But we won our election May 27, and I feel like that has a lot more to do with it,” said Cosgrove.

Right now, Cosgrove doesn’t know where they’ll be transferred to. According to Starbucks corporate, any union partners like her will have to bargain before they can be moved elsewhere in the company.

Starbucks Workers United, the union representing the baristas, filed a labor complaint, claiming that closing these stores is an act of retaliation. The union says a solution could be found if the coffee giant agrees to bargain.