Howard Schultz, chief executive officer of Starbucks Corp., said the company plans to close more stores.
During a video posted on Twitter, Schultz explained that Starbucks is closing stores that are “not unprofitable” because of an increase in crime, homelessness, and drug abuse in bathrooms. The company has announced that it will close 16 locations for security reasons.
“This is just the beginning, and there are going to be many more,” Schultz said. “It has shocked me that one of the primary concerns that our retail partners have is their own personal safety.”
Previously, Starbucks has announced its intent to close in the following locations: Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington and Philadelphia.
A unionization activist says the closures are an attempt to deter unionization efforts. More than 180 Starbucks locations have voted to unionize, according to Starbucks Workers United, which declined to comment immediately.
When they announced the closures, a Starbucks spokesperson told Insider that the company was “closing some stores in locations that have experienced a high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue to operate, to open new locations with safer conditions.”
During listening sessions conducted by executives over the past year, Schultz says he has heard employees voice concerns about safety such as mental illness, homelessness, and crimes.
“We are facing things which the stores were not built for,” Schultz said, adding that forced some stores to close despite remaining profitable.
Out of the 16 locations planned for closure, two in Seattle and one in Portland had previously voted to unionize, according to an article by In These Times published on July 14.
According to unionized workers at a Starbucks cafe in Ithaca, New York, the Seattle-based company that owns the location responded to their unionization by shutting the store down. As soon as the allegation was made, Starbucks denied it and said it respected workers’ rights to unionize and complied with labor law.
In the case of permanently closed stores, employees can transfer to neighboring stores, the company explained in an email. Starbucks assured it will get in touch with the union to find a mutually agreeable solution to allow for transferring union workers to other stores.
They plan to offer more safety training to their workers and also want to clarify their safety procedures such as when it is appropriate to call 911 and making changes to their store layouts. The proposed solutions for staff in some of the affected locations range from closing a restroom to closing a store permanently, as safety may no longer be a viable option, according to a letter posted on the company website.