Image source: Eater Chicago
Although 2022 has seen waves of union efforts in businesses, a unionized Starbucks Edgewater store in Chicago will close in two weeks.
It was among the first stores in the United States to join a union.
The coffee giant announced plans to close its Chicago North Side branch the day before Halloween.
According to management, the store closes on October 30, a Sunday.
The workers said the closure would come four days before the start of the negotiation process for their first union contract.
However, a Starbucks representative denied the allegation, saying the decision to close was due to unspecified safety concerns for employees and customers.
The Chicago coffeehouse was among the first to win the May union elections, with a 10 to 1 vote.
Retaliation and suspicions
Despite their statements, Workers United employees and organizers suspect October 26 is involved with the closure.
Workers United is a subsidiary of the Service Employees International Union.
Several employees said the closure was retaliation for their successful union campaign.
The company moved employees to other stores with little detail on travel times and costs.
Workers United argues that the closure is part of the company’s tactics.
Starbucks has already closed ten locations where union organizations have taken place.
The group filed a lawsuit against unfair labor practices with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Workers United argues that the closure of unionized cafes violates the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.
The law is a fundamental statute of labor law guaranteeing workers the right to form trade unions to bargain collectively.
In March, the NLRB learned that an acclaimed Chicago bakery, Lost Larson, ignored the statute and illegally fired an employee.
The employee tried to organize a union in her workplace.
The agreement between the two parties provided that management would not acquit or interfere with employees’ rights to raise concerns and complaints regarding the following:
- Other terms/conditions of employment on their behalf or the behalf of others
The challenge of proving retaliations
While some cases can be proven, other cases of retaliation may be challenging to prove.
In 2020, several fired Wisconsin-based Colectivo Coffee chain employees filed a lawsuit against the chain.
Colectivo Coffee also has five locations in the Chicago area
They said their termination was retaliation for their involvement in the organizing committee of the Colectivo union.
The NLRB found the allegations to be unfounded.
By 2021, however, the pro-workers of Colectivo had the upper hand, forming the largest unionized workforce in a U.S. coffee chain.
Starbucks workers claim Chicago shop’s closure is union retaliation