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Starbucks Closes Ithaca Store in Retaliation for Unionizing

Starbucks workers are calling for a boycott in Ithaca after the company's most egregious union-busting yet.

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Video produced and edited by Jordan Zakarin and Josh Hirschfeld-Kroen

A Starbucks in Ithaca, NY has been open for 17 years. It was the busiest Starbucks in the city. When workers unionized and stood up for their safety, Starbucks suddenly decided the store had to shut down for “business reasons.” Now workers across the city are fighting back. We spoke to the Starbucks in Ithaca about their fight to keep the store open. Below is a full transcript of the video.

Stephanie Heslop: It’s union busting, that’s all it is. And this is a hugely popular store. It’s been here for 17 years. There’s no reason for them to close it now.

Beck MacLean: They really want the store closed.  I think that they’re afraid of us.

[Protestors chanting]: What’s disgusting? Union busting! 

Beck: The grease trap has been a problem at our stores since I started in 2017. The smell of it alone made me want to barf.

Benjamin South: The first day I started three and a half years ago, the first worker I met apologized to me for the smell of it. And it became an even bigger problem in April when it overflowed. It poured out into our backroom, maggots and all, and it leaked up front where we were supposed to work. And we had no ability to clean it.

Beck: The entire store smelled like literal poopoo. Our acting manager at the time, said that we need to stay open, serving customers, clean up the grease. 

Benjamin: We walked out on strike over it. And now that it’s become a hazardous problem, they’re trying to shut our store down instead of fixing it, like they had years to do.

Beck: When we asked the reasoning of closing the store, they pretty much only said the grease trap was the major reason. Other little reasons were, like, spacing issues, or a lack of an ice bin on the second bar…Or oh gosh, what else? That our hand-off plane is too small.

Benjamin: They also claimed “business needs”, even though the former mayor of Ithaca said this was the most lucrative corner in the city.

Beck: So throughout this whole thing, we kept saying, hey “This is disputed, this is disputed, this is disputed.” The only thing that we can’t actively dispute right now is the grease trap. So let’s just…fix it.

Benjamin: It’s an easy fix that should have been fixed.

It’s without a doubt, retaliation for them to do this to us because it wouldn’t have happened before we striked. We are asking for the store to stay open. We’re not gonna back down from that. We’re not just fighting for our jobs. There’s an entire movement now. 

Starbucks was radio silent on any sort of bargaining things before this. And as soon as they told us we were closing, they wanted to try to bargain over our jobs.

Beck: They offered that everyone who’s working here currently will get a transfer. We were trying to get them to say the word guaranteed. They wouldn’t say it. They kept on saying “the goal is to transfer everyone.” 

What we want is to keep the store open. We want them to ideally close the store to fix the grease trap and reopen as soon as possible.

[Speaker at protest]: We’re calling on you to let everyone know: do not go to Starbucks until they negotiate a fair agreement with us, and keep College Town open. 

Stephanie: We’ve been organizing together all three stores in Ithaca for months. These people are my friends. They don’t deserve this. Starbucks is trying to make an example of them because they’re militant and they stand up for each other. Seeing the support for Starbucks workers from the community, it means so much to us.

Leah Webb, State Senate candidate: And this requires all of us, whether you work here at the Starbucks, whether you patronize, we need everyone to stand in solidarity because United, we cannot be what? [Crowd:  “DIVIDED!”]

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