Starbucks Says It Fired Workers Part of Unionization Effort for Violations

The Twitter account representing Starbucks employees working to unionize, SBWorkersUnited, said in a tweet that Starbucks fired several employees who were leading the effort to unionize at a Memphis store. Starbucks confirmed there were dismissals at the store, though the sides differ on why they occurred.

SBWorkersUnited alleged that Starbucks fired the employees over employees talking to the media about unionization efforts, which multiple employees did when they spoke to WLBT-TV and WREG-TV in Memphis in announcing their organization efforts last month.

A Starbucks spokesperson told Newsweek that the firings were due to violations of policies, including the employees allowing a local media member in the store after hours to conduct an interview, a photo of which was posted on Twitter last month.

One former employee tweeted Tuesday morning that they were previously unaware of the policies they had been fired over.

Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said the company became aware of "several safety and security violations" at the store and opened an investigation. Borges said the investigation consisted of interviews with the involved "partners," the company's term for employees, as well as reviewing security footage from inside the store.

Borges said the policies violated included non-employees and employees who were not scheduled to be working in the store were let into the store after hours by the employees who were inside. Those employees opened a locked door and remained in the store after hours, according to Borges.

He said employees also let the non-employees into restricted areas of the store like behind the line where food is prepared and served, and said one employee who was not the "designated cash controller" opened the store's safe, and was not stopped by another employee when they did so.

"These egregious actions and blatant violations cannot be ignored," Borges wrote in an email. "As a result of our investigation, several partners involved are no longer with Starbucks given the significant violations of these policies."

He said an exact number of employees who have been fired is not available currently because "conversations are ongoing" between the company and employees at the store.

More Perfect Union, a media outlet focused on labor rights, also posted a video to Twitter interviewing several employees in which they alleged that after they started their unionization efforts, employees from other stores were brought in to intentionally reduce their hours. The unionization effort, which began at a Buffalo Starbucks late last year, has expanded to stores in several more states in recent weeks.

The video also said that the store was closed by the company for several days in late January and earlier this month because of protests conducted by employees and other members of the community in support of their efforts.

A request for comment from the union representing the workers was not immediately returned.

Update (2/8/2022 2:45 p.m.): This story was updated with additional context and comments from a Starbucks spokesperson. The headline was also changed to reflect the company's comments.

Starbucks Union Memphis Media Fired Employees
Former employees at a Starbucks in Memphis, Tennessee allege that they were fired for speaking to local media about their unionization efforts. Above, the Starbucks logo hangs outside one of the company's cafes in Northwich on July 3, 2008 in Northwich, England. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images