MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Several workers at a Memphis Starbucks store were fired Tuesday over what the company says were “significant violations” of policy.
Workers from the Poplar Plaza location, however, say the company is retaliating against employees after they talked to the media about their attempt to unionize.
The group SBWorkers United posted on a Gofundme page raising money for the group: “In their most blatant act of union-busting yet, Starbucks is retaliating against us on the union organizing committee at the Poplar & Highland store after we spoke to the media about our campaign.”
In a statement, the Seattle-based corporation denied that and said it opened an investigation into the Memphis store after it was made aware of recent safety and security policy violations.
Among them, the company said, several employees and non-employees had been allowed into the store after closing for a media interview, and that the front door was left unlocked.
“Our safety and security policies are in place to protect partners and to protect our customers and the communities we serve,” the company stated. “These egregious actions and blatant violations cannot be ignored.”
A company representative said that other Starbucks employees elsewhere had also talked to media about unionization efforts and were not disciplined.
“They are choosing this time to now enforce policies,” said Beto Sanchez, a worker involved in the unionization effort who said he was fired around noon Tuesday.
Sanchez said seven employees were fired, and most had been members of the union committee. The group has filed its petition to unionize and would need a majority vote from store workers to proceed.
“I’m not backing down,” said Sanchez, who said he expects to return to his job. “They’re trying very hard to cover this up and keep this quiet but we’re doing otherwise.”
Tennessee Senator Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) issued a statement about the situation on Tuesday, saying “We live in America, the land of the free, where we value work and it’s illegal to fire people for forming a union. Working people deserve the same freedom CEOs have: the freedom to negotiate a fair return on their work.”