ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM) – Workers at the College Avenue Starbucks location in Ithaca said they were “blindsided” by the company’s decision to close the store at the end of this week.

Benjamin South, Shift Supervisor at the now-unionized store and a lead organizer of the Starbucks Workers United union, said that the workers were called into a Microsoft Teams call on Friday, June 3, during which the coffeehouse chain delivered the news. They were told store would close a week later on June 10.

“That’s how we found out,” South said. “We were blindsided by it.”

According to South, Starbucks told employees that the decision was because the company couldn’t provide “the proper partner experience after all the things we brought to their attention these past few months, and for business reasons.”

In April, workers at the location went on strike after they said a grease trap filled with water, oil, and maggots overflowed onto the floor and jeopardized their safety. The Starbucks Workers United union claimed in a June 4 tweet, and South claimed in a press release that the grease trap failure was a reason given by the company for closing the location.

“We’re at one of the most lucrative corners in Ithaca, and all of these things could easily be fixed, if they wanted to,” South said. “So I think they’re doing it because we’ve been one of the most outspoken stores in the union.”

The union is alleging that Starbucks is union-busting in its decision to close the store. The news has drawn reactions from around the country, including from lawmakers who mirror the union’s sentiments.

All three Starbucks locations in the City of Ithaca voted to unionize on April 8.

According to Bloomberg, which first reported the closure announcement, the Starbucks Workers United union has filed a charge with the U.S. National Labor Relations Board accusing Starbucks of retaliation against the employee’s unionization efforts.

Looking ahead, South said workers “are just trying to build solidarity among the union and get the public to come out and speak about this to show Starbucks that Ithaca wouldn’t stand for punishing unionized workers for just trying to grasp at dignity in the workplace.”

A spokesperson for Starbucks provided the following statement to 18 News:

We open and close stores as a regular part of our operations. Our local, regional, and national leaders have been working with humility, deep care, and urgency to create the kind of store environment that partners and customers expect of Starbucks. Our goal is to ensure that every partner is supported in their individual situation, and we have immediate opportunities available in the market. 

Starbucks spokesperson

A spokesperson for GoFundMe told 18 News that union organizers have started a fundraiser to attend the 2022 Labor Notes Conference in Chicago on June 17. According to the spokesperson, the conference “encourages connections to strengthen the labor movement.”