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Starbucks employees fired after announcing efforts to unionize in Memphis

Some Memphis Starbucks employees are out of a job Tuesday, just weeks after they announced their efforts to unionize. (Source: WMC)
Published: Feb. 9, 2022 at 7:30 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC/Gray News) - 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 a Starbucks at Poplar near Highland Tuesday evening protesting after several employees were fired, WMC reported.

“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.”

Memphis Restaurant Workers United protest after Starbucks fires Poplar/Highland store employees
Memphis Restaurant Workers United protest after Starbucks fires Poplar/Highland store employees(WMC)

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

WMC was invited into the store after hours on Jan. 18 to discuss those efforts.

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

Starbucks told WMC 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 said they are suspicious of the timing of their terminations. They said a hearing this week would have decided whether the store’s 20 employees could unionize. Sanchez said 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 said 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.

WMC 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.”

Copyright 2022 WMC via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.