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Federal Regulators Want to Force Starbucks to Reopen Six Los Angeles Stores

The National Labor Relations Board claims the stores were closed in response to workers trying to organize a union

Workers gather in front of a coffee shop for a press conference.
Workers in front of a Starbucks Coffee in Downtown Los Angeles in March 2023.
Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

The National Labor Relations Board is seeking an order for Starbucks to reopen 23 stores across the country, including six in the Los Angeles area, reports the New York Times. Federal regulators allege that the stores closed due to workers planning to organize into a union, and are asking a judge to force the company to reopen the stores and compensate employees for lost wages, benefits, and any other costs associated with the closures. Unless it’s settled earlier, the complaint will go before an administrative judge next summer.

Eater reported in July 2022 that Starbucks announced the closures of six LA-area stores citing “worker safety.” However, Starbucks partner (the company’s term for employee) and lead union organizer Tyler Keeling believed the company closed the stores as an intimidation tactic to scare employees from forming a union. “It’s very, very telling for a company that claims to be about its partners first that it’s putting partners, potentially, out of jobs,” said Keeling.

Earlier this week, a shareholder-requested audit found that Starbucks did not use an “anti-union playbook” but instead blamed “missteps” in the company’s approach to union organization, according to the Los Angeles Times. Starbucks Workers United responded to the report by saying it “shows Starbucks has a long way to go to shift policy and deconstruct the massive antiunion apparatus that remains in place and is active today.”

The stores closed in LA County include 8595 Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood; 5453 Hollywood Boulevard, 6290 Hollywood Boulevard, 120 S. Los Angeles Street, and 232 E. Second Street in Los Angeles; and 1601 Ocean Front Walk in Santa Monica. A Starbucks spokesperson responded in an emailed statement to the Los Angeles Times saying it continues to open and close to strengthen its portfolio and “reevaluate its footprint.” Starbucks has until December 27, 2023, to respond to the NLRB complaint.