Two men moving a fridge into the starbucks in downtown berkeley
The Starbucks location at 2224 Shattuck Ave. remained closed on Monday, Oct. 16, 2023 while it underwent repairs. Credit: Iris Kwok

The Downtown Berkeley Starbucks remains closed with no reopening date set as the location undergoes repairs. 

The unplanned, temporary closure began on Friday, Oct. 13, the same day that the Shattuck Avenue store’s more than 20 unionized employees held a one-day strike urging management to rectify working conditions they described as unsafe, including broken air conditioning amid heat waves and a “pitch black” storage room. As of Tuesday, Oct. 17, the store was marked as temporarily closed and the location’s hours were no longer listed on the Starbucks website. 

“Following reports of facility issues caused by nearby construction, local leaders temporarily closed our Shattuck store in Berkeley. The store remains closed at this time as we evaluate options to rectify the issue,” a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement. Employees scheduled to work at the Shattuck store during the temporary closure will be provided with catastrophe pay. 

Jack Miller, a unionized employee, said management had initially said the store would reopen on Tuesday, but then pushed it back to Wednesday morning. (The Starbucks spokesperson said they did not yet have a reopening date to share.) 

The store also had existing plans to close for interior renovations in early November, and contacted Workers United to discuss the planned closure, with intentions of providing employees opportunities to work at other nearby locations, according to the spokesperson. Those renovations are still expected to take place. 

The location unionized in August 2022, becoming the 16th California store to do so. The employees are still working without a contract.

Miller and additional unionized baristas presented a petition to their managers on Sept. 28 describing a “serious deterioration” in working conditions. In the petition, workers claimed a faulty air conditioning system had led them to work in sweltering, unsafe conditions. Meanwhile, the company has raised the temperature that would trigger a store closing multiple times, with the new “unsafe” indoor temperature up to 82 degrees from 77 degrees.  

Following a lack of progress, according to the unionized workers, they held the one-day strike.

“Management has not communicated anything about changing what temperature triggers a store closure or the discrepancy between the wall and freestanding thermometers,” Miller wrote in a text Monday evening. “It’s also worth noting that management is contacting individual workers directly, not sending information to our store’s union email address or to our union rep.”

Still, Miller sees the strike as a partial victory.

“The fact that they have offered us catastrophe pay without question [and] without being prompted is an indication that they are reacting to our strike and taking us seriously,” Miller said. “They are definitely trying to walk the line of, ‘how do we appease workers and get them to come back to work’ without actually directly addressing the union.” 

Starbucks operations leaders for the area who make day-to-day management calls for stores in this region made the decision to temporarily close the Shattuck location, a company spokesperson said, and the store will remain closed until the facility issue can be addressed. 

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Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...