Statement from Assemblymember Kelles on Starbucks’ Departure from Ithaca

Ithaca, NY Over the weekend, Starbucks notified employees at its two remaining Ithaca branches that they would be shutting their doors permanently on May 26th. This troubling move comes less than a year after the corporation shuttered their first Ithaca location on College Avenue, a mere two months after its staff were involved in a successful vote for unionization. It is inescapably clear that these closures are the final step in a long string of outward repercussions that workers in the two remaining Ithaca cafes have faced since they supported a unionizing movement.

Last April, a near unanimous vote to unionize took place in all three corporate Starbucks stores in Ithaca. Immediately following this vote, there were reports of those employees involved in the organizing having their hours slashed and/or outright employment termination made with very little pretense. Charges of these anti- organizing actions were submitted as part of the Starbucks Workers United case against the corporation, to the  National Labor Relations Board.

“It was a point of pride for most of Ithaca that all of the three Starbucks locations employed unionized workers and that Ithaca was the first city in the country to have fully unionized Starbucks cafes,” said Assemblymember Kelles. “I am appalled by the consistently and blatantly anti-union actions of this multi-billion-dollar corporation. I am stirred by and appreciate the courage and fortitude of those that have fought and are still fighting for labor representation here for more than one year.”

Starbucks corporation has developed a pattern of union-busting behavior, attempting to snuff out any attempt at organization, and eventually closing stores that have voted to unionize. Ithaca stores are the most recent example. Though workers impacted by their tactics have the right to file complaints at the federal level, the processing and adjudication of those claims can take months or years and bear very little fruit. At the end of that arduous process, in the best-case scenario for a worker, they may be awarded compensation for wages lost by the corporation or, in some instances, reinstatement. To be clear, this is not a solution.

The ideals spelled out in Starbucks’ mission statement seem, in reality, to be performative. Professing to “strive for an atmosphere where each individual can share in the growth,” and to “not compromise our ethics or integrity in the name of profit,” is a fine sentiment, but one that hangs awkwardly in the air in complete odds with their chosen actions.

Assemblymember Kelles states, “We must look ourselves in the mirror and ask ourselves what happened to the country where companies were run by people who invested in their workers knowing it was a commitment to the quality of their product or service? Today a small handful treat their employees with fairness and act in good faith of their own accord. Employees deserve to have pride in their work, safety in the workplace, and integrity from those they work for. Each of us has our own voice and ability to stand with workers, even if that voice is expressed with our feet and our pocketbooks in who we choose to support. I stand in solidarity with workers who chose to unionize and will fight for accountability from corporations like Starbucks.”