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MEMPHIS, Temm. — The controversy surrounding the termination of several Memphis-area Starbucks employees continued Wednesday as protestors gathered outside a local Starbucks.

Protests began Wednesday evening at the Starbucks on Poplar near Highland. It was in support of the seven employees who were fired after they were a part of the efforts to unionize the store.

“As soon as they heard about our campaign launching, they’ve been spending time closing our cafes, stopping sit-ins, doing anything they can to try to stop us instead of actually supporting us,” former employee Beto Sanchez said.

Sanchez is one of the seven employees terminated after the company said they “violated numerous policies”. He says the incident the company is referring to happened last month when he and his coworkers first announced they were trying to unionize.

He says they conducted several media interviews including one that took place in the store after hours.

Sanchez says the group met with multiple corporate executives who told them they had no authorization to host an interview inside the store.

“We know that Starbucks is not going to authorize a pro-union media event here. So, that’s why they’re trying to terminate us,” Sanchez said. 

A Starbucks spokesperson says “These egregious actions and blatant violations cannot be ignored”.

“It’s going to be what’s called indirect retaliation because their spokesman is always going to say they violated policy but in fact, this policy is the one they’ve been enforcing just to eliminate us because we didn’t receive any write-ups. We didn’t receive any warnings or anything. It was a straight termination,” Sanchez said.

The Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council calls the firing of the workers “rampant union-busting.”

In a statement, they say:

“We stand in solidarity with these brave workers and commend them for speaking up, even in the face of the company’s blatant attempt to silence their voices.”

The fired employees say they plan to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.