SF Boba Guys closes original location after controversy

Popular milk tea chain Boba Guys has permanently closed its original store in San Francisco’s Mission District, the San Francisco Chronicle reported (SFGATE and the San Francisco Chronicle are both owned by Hearst but operate independently of one another).

Co-founders Andrew Chau and Bin Chen temporarily closed the store on 19th and Valencia Street back in October after a group of employees refused to work following some controversy. The issues began when employees were informed that their hours would be reduced due to the shop’s financial difficulties, reported the Chronicle.

The day after the meeting, employee Madeline Urso shared unemployment and unionization information in the company slack. The following day, she was fired for sexual harassment due to an inappropriate comment she made after the meeting, according to her termination notice.

However, SFGATE reported at the time that Boba Guys’ owners only learned from Urson’s comment because the owners were recording audio at the shop. Workers told SFGATE that they had never been informed their conversations were being recorded. In California, it is illegal to record a private conversation without both parties consenting to the recording.

One of the protest signs that were temporarily posted at the Boba Guys in the Mission on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022.

Courtesy of Madeline Urso

Outrage followed Urso’s termination, with some employees alleging it was actually retaliation for Urso’s mention of unionization in the Slack company. Workers posted signs at the Mission Boba Guys store reading “upper management retaliates against boba employees” and “union busters.”

Now, co-founders Chau and Chen have confirmed to the Chronicle the permanent closure of the 19th Street store, as well the closure of one in Newport Beach, though they did not offer a reason. They noted that employees at this location were offered transfers to nearby Boba Guys stores. Boba Guys did not respond to SFGATE’s request for comment in time for publication.

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