MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Employees at a Memphis Starbucks are looking to unionize. They say their campaign will not only help employees, but customers as well.
Barista Nabretta Hardin works at the Starbucks off Poplar near Highland in east Memphis.
“We are ready for anything they throw at us,” Hardin said.
She’s one of several employees who penned this letter to the community on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, explaining their reasoning for what they say is a call to action.
The goal is to create a union.
“We definitely thought it was a statement to do it on MLK day considering we’re from Memphis,” Hardin told us.
Saying in the letter, “We are here to fight for our safety and our rights as workers that have been denied and shoved away from us.”
Hardin said there have been employee safety concerns that haven’t been properly addressed surrounding COVID-19, along with other problems with employee vacation and pay.
“Each store has had different abuse from the district,” Kylie Throckmorton, a shift supervisor told us.
Union organizers are now hearing from other Memphis Starbucks locations.
“We’ve already had people reaching out to us from other stores about how to start the process.”
After a Buffalo, New York location formed a union, the push to unionize more stores has started spreading across the country.
They recently walked off the job in protest after what employees called “unsafe working conditions.”
As the process starts in Memphis, those organizing say having a union, will not only help workers but customers too.
“If we were unionized we could help fight for the scheduling that we need. We could help make sure that everybody is getting the hours that they need,” Throckmorton told us.
“It will help make our lives easier. It will make it a lot less stressful for us, so we’ll be able to actually connect with the customers, we’ll be able to make those connections, be able to make them happy, get everything out efficiently and build relationships,” Throckmorton said.
Workers said the next step is to get the petition out and that about 90% of their store is on board.
A spokesperson with Starbucks told us in part,
“Our position hasn’t changed: Starbucks success—past, present and future—is built on how we partner together, always with Our Mission and Values at our core. From the beginning, we’ve been clear in our belief that we are better together as partners, without a union between us at Starbucks, and that conviction has not changed.”