(The Center Square) – Less than 24 hours after learning their store was closing, workers at the Starbucks on 400 Pine St. near the Westlake Center suggested their favorite drinks to customers overwhelmed by choices.
They quickly acknowledged the closure but were more focused on getting people their drinks.
A chalkboard on the sign spelled out “Westlake [team’]s vision for your experience.” They wanted the store to be “a safe space that exudes warmth & laughter, focusing on everyone that walks through our doors, & making them feel like family.”
It was signed, “your Westlake baristas.”
And yet, those baristas are joining the employees of four other stores within Seattle along with one in Everett that are closing down due to safety concerns, caused by rising crime.
In The Center Square’s brief visit there Tuesday, an apparently homeless white male who was mumbling to himself entered the store. He then grabbed two yogurts and a juice and walked out without paying.
The security guard, standing by the door, didn’t appear to notice the small theft.
Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz wrote a letter sent to employees on July 11.
“Today, we find ourselves in a position where we must modernize and transform the Starbucks experience in our stores and recreate an environment that is relevant, welcoming and safe and where we uplift one another with dignity, respect and kindness,” Schultz said.
Seventeen Starbucks stores are closing throughout the U.S. on July 31 as part of the initiative to boost security. The company has said that employees at the closing stores can choose to be reassigned to an alternative store nearby.
The news of the closings upset many of the employees at the two locations, including Mari Orrego, a “partner” at the 505 Union Station store.
“Workers at 505 Union Station were told today that it was not fair to workers to continue to operate these stores because Starbucks decided it was not safe, it did not provide a good experience for the workers. We never had a choice,” Orrego said via Starbucks Workers United in an email to The Center Square.
He thought that it was “dehumanizing that Starbucks encourages workers and managers to have friendly working relationships and then makes almost every single manager I’ve ever worked with watch my coworkers and I struggle to hold back tears as we ask questions about our future only to receive no clear answers and have the meeting suddenly end.”
Orrego added that Starbucks stress “values, communication and working together with ‘partners,’” but said their actions show that “they’re lying,” in regards to Shultz letter stating that the company values respect and inclusion.
The relationship between Starbucks and the Starbucks Workers United union has been tense.
In December 2021, employees at a Starbucks located in Buffalo, N.Y. became the first store to vote to unionize in the U.S.. Since then, over 180 locations have unionized, according to Starbucks Workers United.
Starbucks Workers United members in Seattle have shown their frustrations with the company since the first store within the city was unionized in lat March.
Most recently, on June 24, workers from Starbucks locations at 1st and University, 1st and Pike and even the original store at Pike Place Market went on strike after learning they would have to re-interview for their positions.
A news release from the union said that more than 20 of the employees were informed that they did not qualify for the jobs they had been doing prior to the re-interview. The union added that only one worker from the 1st and Pike store was offered the original job back.
The full list of Seattle-based Starbucks closing include: 2300 S. Jackson St., 6417 Roosevelt Way N.E., 1600 E. Olive Way, 505 5th Ave. S. and 400 Pine St..
What happens to the workers of the disbanded unionized stores appears to be up in the air.
The Seattle Times reported that those Starbucks workers who are part of the union will continue to be represented by that union if they can be successfully reassigned to other stores and “if their new store is also unionized.”
Starbucks did not reply to a The Center Square request for confirmation about representation for relocated employees from the soon-shuttered stores.