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A Federal Labor Complaint Says Starbucks Illegally Closed Stores, Including Three Portland Locations

One shop was unionized and another cafe had a union campaign underway

The exterior of a Starbucks.
A now-closed Starbucks in downtown Portland.
Michael Gordon/Shutterstock
Janey Wong is Eater Portland's reporter.

In a complaint filed on December 13, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board Seattle regional director alleged that Starbucks shuttered stores across the country to “discourage membership in a labor organization.” The official is seeking to reopen the stores, including three Portland locations, that the coffee giant closed in 2022.

“This complaint is the latest confirmation of Starbucks’ determination to illegally oppose workers’ organizing,” Mari Cosgrove, a member of Starbucks Workers United, said in a public statement.

Of the three Portland locations named in the complaint — 401 SW Morrison Street downtown, 1102 NW Lovejoy Street in the Pearl District, and 10112 NE Halsey Street at Gateway Shopping Center — the Pearl District shop was unionized and the downtown cafe had a union campaign underway.

The complaint also seeks an order requiring the coffee chain to engage in bargaining with the eight unionized stores that were shuttered and to compensate workers for lost wages and benefits. National Labor Relations Board press secretary Kayla Blado explained that the complaint filed by the regional director is not a board decision. An NLRB hearing to settle the complaint is scheduled for August 20, 2024.

Starbucks addressed the complaint in a statement on its website, writing, “these allegations lack merit, and we plan to defend our lawful business decisions.” Starbucks also claims that the store closures in question “were outcomes of regular business reviews, which assess the health and overall footprint of our store portfolio.”

At the time of the closures, which affected a total of 23 locations across eight states and Washington, D.C., Starbucks cited safety concerns as the cause. “Modifying operations, closing a restroom, or even closing a store permanently, where safety in the third place is no longer possible,” wrote senior vice presidents of U.S. operations Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelsen.

Last year, a federal labor judge ordered Starbucks to reopen a shuttered location in Buffalo, New York, after determining that the company had violated labor laws. The decision also directed the reinstatement of seven fired workers.