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Starbucks Is Closing Its Cafes After Employees Petitioned Because of Coronavirus

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.Starbucks will temporarily close the inside of its North American locations for two weeks, the company said Friday — after days of pushback from employees. Drive-thrus will remain open and offer delivery.Employees are guaranteed pay for the next 30 days even if they…

Starbucks Is Closing Its Cafes After Employees Petitioned Because of Coronavirus
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Starbucks will temporarily close the inside of its North American locations for two weeks, the company said Friday — after days of pushback from employees. Drive-thrus will remain open and offer delivery.

Employees are guaranteed pay for the next 30 days even if they decline to come into work at continuing locations. Cafes near hospitals and health care centers will remain open to serve health care workers combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

“Any partner serving in our stores that remain open will be there because they want to be there to serve our community at this time,” Rossann Williams, executive vice president of Starbucks and head of U.S. retail, said in a statement posted online.

Earlier this week, Starbucks employees launched a petition urging the coffee juggernaut to close temporarily because of the outbreak, as other retailers have done. The company had transitioned to a “to-go” model, which meant customers could come up to a cafe counter and order if they promptly left. But employees stressed to VICE News that customers weren’t following those rules and that they felt they were putting themselves at risk daily.

The petition, written by Philadelphia-based barista Anyia Johnson, garnered nearly 35,000 signatures from employees and customers alike to better protect the safety of the company’s “partners” — what Starbucks calls its employees — and customers. Johnson told VICE News Wednesday: “Coffee is not essential at all. Starbucks is not essential. And yet we’re still open.”

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