A group of Starbucks employees at the Mall of America has joined a national union and called on the coffee company for better treatment of its workers following a company announcement this month that it would shutter some 600 stores nationwide, including 27 in Minnesota.

The laid off employees deserve a severance package and the option of a transfer to another location, said Erik Forman, a former Starbucks employee at the Mall of America. He said some employees of the mall location stopped working briefly on Monday to protest the closings; the group plans a press conference today.

Forman, who said he was laid off last week for union activities, said about half of the store's 13 employees have agreed to join the Industrial Workers of the World, which has helped Starbucks employees in New York and Chicago organize unions.

An e-mail sent to a Starbucks spokesperson on Monday evening was not immediately answered.