Starbucks has announced that it will close two Portland stores due to safety concerns for its employees and customers.
The Fortune 500 coffee chain will close its locations on Southwest Fourth Avenue and Morrison Street in downtown Portland, as well as at the Gateway Shopping Center in east Portland.
The Wall Street Journal reported that 16 Starbucks locations across the United States will close by July 31.
A Starbucks spokesperson said in an email, “After careful consideration, we are closing some stores in locations that have experienced a high volume of challenging incidents that make it unsafe to continue operating, in order to open new locations with safer conditions.”
The company reported receiving reports from employees regarding incidents involving drug use, theft, and assault in specific locations.
In a Monday memo to employees, senior vice presidents for U.S. operations Denise Nielsen and Debbie Stroud explained that the changes are in response to “challenges facing [workers]” and that Starbucks’ top priority is “creating a safe, welcoming, and kind third place.”
Simply put, we cannot serve as partners if we do not feel safe at work, they said, referring to the term the company uses for its employees.
According to the company, employees of stores that are closing may request transfer to neighboring stores.
Starbucks is “reinventing” the customer experience under interim CEO Howard Schultz, and employees across the country are voting to unionize at the same time.
Meanwhile, the number of chain employees participating in the nationwide campaign has increased.
Since late last year, the National Labor Relations Board has certified unions at more than 189 Starbucks locations across the United States. Dozens of additional stores are currently holding elections, with employees seeking improved safety protections, health benefits, and higher pay.