Memphis Starbucks employees fired after announcing efforts to unionize

Some Memphis Starbucks employees are out of a job Tuesday, just weeks after they announced their efforts to unionize. (Source: WMC)
Published: Feb. 8, 2022 at 10:06 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Some Memphis Starbucks employees are out of a job Tuesday, just weeks after they announced their efforts to unionize.

Members of the group, “Memphis Restaurant Workers United,” were outside this Starbucks at Poplar near Highland Tuesday evening protesting after several employees were fired.

“Memphis is mad,” said Joey Scott, a member of Memphis Restaurant Workers United. “This is a union town. We’re showing support. We’re showing solidarity because it’s not right. It’s intimidation. It’s retaliation and it’s illegal.”

Former Starbucks employees say they believe they were fired after announcing they wanted to unionize. Starbucks North America says those employees violated safety and security policies.

Action News 5 was invited into the store after hours back Jan. 18 to discuss those efforts.

Employees said then, they want better pay and safer working conditions. A Starbucks spokesman says an investigation into that location began after what they call “safety and security violations.”

Starbucks told Action News 5 in part, “Several partners remained in the store and opened a locked door after the close of business without permission or authority. Partners also let these unauthorized individuals behind the line and in the back of house while leaving the unlocked door unattended.”

“They’re saying that I broke a whole bunch of policies that have never been enforced before,” said former shift supervisor, Nikki Taylor. “I have worked for this company for two years and I have literally never been written up or talked to about any of the policies that I was fired for today.”

Taylor is among those who lost their job.

Taylor and former supervisor, Beto Sanchez, are suspicious of the timing of their terminations. They say a hearing this week would have decided whether the store’s 20 employees could unionize. Sanchez says six of the seven fired employees, were on the store’s unionizing leadership committee.

“These are some policies that they’re picking purposely to be able to have the people that are supposed to be voting at this union to be fired and let go, to turn the tide for their election,” said Sanchez. “They’re doing this right before the election just to have more in their favor.”

Taylor and Sanchez say their fight is far from over. The group of fired employees have legal representation and are considering filing charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

Action News 5 asked a Starbucks spokesman to provide comment on claims employees were fired because of speaking with local media outlets about unionizing. The spokesman said the company has never retaliated against an employee who spoke with a media outlet.

Tennessee Senator Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, issued a statement Tuesday in response to hearing about union organizers who were fired.

“We live in America, the land of the free, where we value work and it’s illegal to fire people for forming a union,” said Akbari. “Working people deserve the same freedom CEOs have: the freedom to negotiate a fair return on their work.”

You can read the full statement from Starbucks North America here:

Starbucks takes safety and security seriously.  Our safety and security policies are in place to protect partners and to protect our customers and the communities we serve. Our partners’ safety and security are of utmost concern. These policies protect partners as we have experienced tragic events when these policies have been violated. All partners are aware of these policies, and receive training related to them. This training clearly states that violating these policies may result in termination.

When we were made aware of several safety and security violations at our Poplar/Highland Starbucks store, we opened an investigation. Our investigation revealed that partners violated numerous policies, including maintaining a secure work environment and safe security standards.

To be clear:

Several partners remained in the store and opened a locked door after the close of business without permission or authority.

Non-partners and those who are not on shift or otherwise not actively closing the store are not allowed access to the store when it is closed for business. Despite this, partners allowed unauthorized individuals into the closed store.

Partners also let these unauthorized individuals behind the line and in the back of house while leaving the unlocked door unattended.

One partner also opened the store safe when the partner was not the designated cash controller and another allowed this violation to occur.

These egregious actions and blatant violations cannot be ignored. As a result of our investigation, several partners involved are no longer with Starbucks given the significant violations of these policies. Out of respect for their privacy, we will not go into further detail here.

Spokesperson from Starbucks North America

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