Starbucks is shutting 16 shops around the country due to persistent safety problems, including drug use.

Six stores in Seattle will close, as will six in Los Angeles, two in Portland, Oregon, and one each in Philadelphia and Washington.

Starbucks said staff at certain locations will be offered the option to move to other locations.

The coffee giant said the closures are part of a larger effort to respond to staff concerns and make sure stores are safe and welcoming.

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Starbucks’ senior vice presidents of operations, Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson, wrote to employees saying the company’s outlets aren’t immune to issues such as escalating drug use and a growing mental health crisis.

Stroud and Nelson wrote: “We know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too.

“We read every incident report you file — it’s a lot,”

However, numerous employees complained that they were not contacted or offered any choices other than closure.

Mari Cosgrove, an employee at one of the Seattle stores that are closing said: “We think it is not fair that we were not allowed to be a part of this decision about our working conditions, nor for Starbucks to claim they could not provide a safe experience for our workplace.”

The shutdown gained further attention because of Starbucks’ US. outlets are now trying to unionize.

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Since late last year, more than 189 Starbucks locations in the United States have chosen to unionize, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Starbucks is against the attempt at unionization.

While one of the Portland locations has asked to hold a union vote, two of the Seattle businesses that are shutting down have already chosen to unionize.

Due to operational issues, including a clogged grease trap, Starbucks also shuttered a unionized location in Ithaca, New York, last month.

Starbucks Workers United, the labor group organizing the effort, said it intends to file unfair labor practice charges against Starbucks on behalf of the two unionized stores that are closing in Seattle.

But Starbucks insisted the closures weren’t related to the unionization drive.

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A spokesperson said: “Opening and closing stores is part of our business operations.

“This is really rooted in safe and welcoming stores.”

Starbucks is free to shut down locations for commercial reasons without violating any labor laws in the US.

However, regardless of whether a business is unionized or not, it cannot be closed in reprisal against labor activists.

Source: Valdosta Daily Times

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