Starbucks accused by NLRB of union busting for closing 23 stores

A majority of the stores the NRLB wants Starbucks to reopen are not union stores

The National Labor Relations Board is looking to force Starbucks to reopen 23 stores the coffee giant closed last year, accusing the company of shuttering the union and non-union shops as part of a union-busting effort.

A regional NLRB director filed a complaint against Starbucks Wednesday, accusing the company of violating federal labor laws with the closures. 

The complaint claims Starbucks closed the stores without providing prior notice to Workers United, the labor union that has already organized several Starbucks locations, and without allowing the union an opportunity to bargain about the decisions. 

A closed Starbucks location in Seattle

A closed Starbucks location at 505 Union Station as demonstrators protest nearby in Seattle July 16, 2022.  (David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The complaint states that eight of the shops were unionized at the time of their closure, while the other 15 were not represented by a union.

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The NLRB is seeking an order from an administrative judge that requires Starbucks to immediately reopen all 23 of the stores, rehire the employees, bargain with unions at stores that have unionized and provide compensation to workers who lost pay and benefits due to the closures.

Starbucks said in a blog post Thursday the NLRB allegations lack merit, and the company plans to defend its "lawful business decisions."

A closed Starbucks location in Seattle

A recently closed Starbucks along Denny Way has graffiti supporting unions in Seattle Sept. 14, 2022. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The company said it regularly opens and closes stores for an array of reasons and noted that it opened 437 new stores across the U.S. during the 2022 fiscal year and closed 116. Roughly 3% of the locations shuttered that year were unionized.

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"Each year as a standard course of business, we evaluate the store portfolio to determine where we can best meet our community and customers’ needs," a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement. "This includes opening new locations, identifying stores in need of investment or renovation, exploring locations where an alternative format is needed and, in some instances, re-evaluating our footprint."

Starbucks Logo

The mermaid logo on a sign outside a Starbucks coffee shop March 14, 2022, in Londonderry, N.H. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa / AP Newsroom)

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Workers at more than 360 of Starbucks' 9,300 U.S. stores have voted to join unions since 2021, and the company is facing more than 100 complaints at the NLRB alleging a variety of unlawful union-busting activity.

Reuters contributed to this report.