Workers at the Armory Square Starbucks filed a petition to unionize in June. Officials said this week they planned to close the shop due to safety issues. Credit: Julie McMahon

Starbucks plans to close down its Armory Square location in Syracuse, citing concerns for the safety of workers and customers.

A Starbucks spokesperson confirmed Wednesday the closure of the store at 290 W. Jefferson St., adding that a timeline for the store’s shutdown will be revealed in the coming days. The closure comes three months after employees at the store attempted to unionize.

Closing down the downtown location isn’t due to singled out incidents, the spokesperson said, but larger concerns with what the company labels as issues of chronic homelessness, substance use disorder, and COVID-19.

“Syracuse is not unique to these issues that folks are grappling with all across the country in cities of every size,” the spokesperson said. “This combination of factors contributed to an inability to provide that safe, kind, welcoming environment that people expect when they go to a Starbucks.”

The shuttering of the Armory Square location is the latest in a slew of store closures across the country. By the end of August, Interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had announced the closure of 18 stores across the states of Washington, Missouri, Pennsylvania, California, Oregon, and the District of Columbia due to crime-related concerns.

“At the local, state, and federal level, these governments… and leaders have abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental illness,” Schultz said in a video leaked to conservative radio station KVI Seattle. “We are going to refine, transform, and modernize many of the things we do to meet the needs of our customers.”

Safety was an issue raised by workers at the Armory Square location in their former union campaign. Employees said in a petition this summer they wanted better policies for dealing with unhoused people who come into the store and remain. 

Workers at the store had filed an NLRB petition to form a union under the national workers collective Starbucks Workers United in June, making them the first and so-far only location in the Syracuse area to formally ask for collective bargaining. Employees withdrew their petition later in the summer, saying they would reassess internal support for the union and make a decision on refiling the petition at a later date.

Starbucks Workers United leading organizer Will Westlake, who had helped workers at Armory Square with the unionization process said workers took issue with how management handled encounters with the city’s homeless population.

“It is a predicament. Workers are basically given the message that if they speak up about issues of safety they put their store at risk,” said Westlake, who was a barista at a Starbucks in Buffalo. “Managers who can’t easily be put in a new store without moving districts or demoting know this and discourage talk.”

Workers at Armory Square proposed having additional training for dealing with people who are suffering from mental health issues.

“We are always going to have to deal with people as public facing workers, and simply calling the police doesn’t result in better outcomes for them, or stop the same people from coming back,” Westlake said.

Workers at several locations throughout the country have accused Starbucks of shutting down stores as retaliation toward employees who sought to organize a union. 

A Starbucks spokesperson told Central Current the company does not make decisions on whether to halt or continue operations at a store based on their unionization status.

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Follow Eddie Velazquez @ezvelazquez.

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