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Ithaca Common Council urges Starbucks to reopen recently unionized store

Alderperson Jorge DeFendini speaks at a protest against Starbucks' closure of its Collegetown location in Ithaca. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)
Alderperson Jorge DeFendini speaks at a protest against Starbucks' closure of its Collegetown location in Ithaca. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)

An Ithaca Common Council Committee passed a resolution Wednesday urging Starbucks to reopen a unionized store recently closed by the company.

The committee condemned the chain for what they called "anti-union practices", but several alderpersons expressed concern the resolution would come off as a move to support Starbucks over local businesses.

"This isn't about any lost love for Starbucks," Alderperson Jorge DeFendini said. "This is about the workers and the concern for not just my constituents but constituents who I believe belong to many of your wards, who happen to work in these Starbucks [stores]."

DeFendini authoredthe resolution. He said many of the workers who lost their jobs live in his ward, which encompasses the Collegetown neighborhood near Cornell University.

"Ithacan workers have fought and labored and toiled for organized collective bargaining rights, and the closure of the store means they will lose those," DeFendini said.

Workers at all three of Ithaca’s Starbucks locations voted to unionize in April. In June, they called for a citywide boycott of the coffee chain’s stores after the company announced it would close its Collegetown location. Now, they claim the company closed the store as a union busting tactic.

A representative of Starbucks said closing the store is a normal part of its business operations.

"We have fully honored the process laid out by the [National Labor Relations Board] and encouraged our partners to vote in these elections to have their voices heard. Any claims of anti-union activity are categorically false," the representative said in a statement.

NLRB records show Starbucks employees have moved to unionize at stores across the country after workers in Buffalo voted to join. But the Board also said the company retaliated against some union organizers.

Although the committee voted four-to-one to pass the resolution, some members had reservations.

"It is not necessarily Council's role to demand that any business open," said Acting Mayor Laura Lewis.

The full council will vote on the resolution on July 6th.

You can watch this committee meeting and all other Common Council meetings online live here