The major coffee chain Starbucks has announced that it will be shutting down at least 16 locations across the country due to employees’ safety concerns.
As reported by CNN, all of the stores that are closing down are located in just five cities: Los Angeles, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Washington, D.C. The stores will shut their doors by the end of July.
The decision was announced Monday in a letter to Starbucks employees from senior vice presidents Debbie Stroud and Denise Nelson. In the letter, the executives said that employees are “seeing firsthand the challenges facing our communities — personal safety, racism, lack of access to healthcare, a growing mental health crisis, rising drug use, and more.”
“With stores in thousands of communities across the country, we know these challenges can, at times, play out within our stores too,” the letter continued. They added that they “read every incident report you file,” noting that “it’s a lot.”
In addition to shuttering 16 locations, the executives also offered several other measures for employees in stores that would remain open, including active shooter training, mental health benefits, and access to abortion, among other incentives. The letter even suggested overturning a controversial 2018 policy that opened all Starbucks’ restrooms to the public instead of customers only.
In another letter on Monday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz explained the decision is part of a broader effort to “reinvent’ the company.
“We need to reinvent Starbucks for the future,” said Schultz, who added that the company needs to “radically” improve the employees’ experiences, and create a sense of “safety, welcoming and kindness for our stores.”
The latest steps come as Starbucks employees take further action towards unionization, something that Schultz has discouraged. As of late June, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has certified workers’ unions at 133 Starbucks locations, encompassing over 3,400 hourly employees. By contrast, the NLRB has certified decisions against unionization at just 15 stores. Dozens of other Starbucks stores are currently undergoing unionization elections. Although the unionized locations account for a fraction of Starbucks’ nearly 9,000 stores throughout the country, the unionization movement has only been gaining momentum in recent weeks.