Starbucks is planning to close at least 16 coffee shops around the country because of safety concerns, The Seattle Times reports.
CEO Howard Schultz has said the stores are “not unprofitable” but have been subject to a recent uptick in problems related to crime, safety, and drug use in bathrooms.
“It has shocked me that one of the primary concerns that our retail partners have is their own personal safety,” Schultz said, according to a video of an internal company meeting posted to Twitter.
The coffee company is planning to shutter cafes in Los Angeles; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; and Washington, D.C.
Employees allege that the company is closing the stores to undercut unionization efforts. Staff at more than 180 locations have voted to unionize, and of the 16 locations to be closed, two voted recently to unionize and one was scheduled to vote on unionization next month. The company has denied the allegations.
EXCLUSIVE: Today at an internal meeting CEO Howard Schultz said: "Starbucks is a window into America… we are facing things in which the stores were not built for… we're listening to our people and closing stores, & this is just the beginning. There are gonna be many more. 🧵 pic.twitter.com/E9ayQqSmB8
— Ari Hoffman (@thehoffather) July 13, 2022
Workers at stores that are closing permanently will be given an opportunity to transfer to a neighboring store.
Starbucks is also working to provide additional safety training for employees and to refine store safety procedures, such as when to dial 911. Store designs and layouts may also be changing.
In the video posted online, Schultz criticized local and state officials who he said are not doing enough to address the social problems prompting the store closures.
“At the local, state and federal level, these governments across the country and leaders, mayors and governors, city councils, have abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental illness,” Schultz said in the video.
The company is also providing employees with training on how to respond to active shooters and is exploring policy changes, such as whether to close its bathrooms to the public, according to CNN.
In an open letter, Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, who are senior vice presidents of U.S. operations for Starbucks, wrote that employees are “seeing firsthand the challenges facing our communities — personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use, and more . . . we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too.”
Further closures of the iconic coffee shops may be coming, Schultz said in the video.
“Starbucks is a window into America, we have stores in every community . . . we are facing things in which the stores were not built for. We’re listening to our people and closing stores, and this is just the beginning. There are going to be many more,” Schultz said in the video.
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[Featured image: Pixabay]