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Starbucks has fired several workers in Memphis, Tenn., after a local news outlet covered the employees' union organization efforts.
The employees are now accusing the company of "union-busting" and vowing to file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, while Starbucks says the decision had nothing to do with media attention or the fact that the workers were seeking representation.
Pro-union pins sit on a table during a watch party for Starbucks’ employees union election, Dec. 9, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex, File / AP Newsroom)
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Starbucks Workers United, the union seeking to organize Starbucks employees nationwide, tweeted Tuesday, "Starbucks corporate is currently firing virtually the entire union leadership in Memphis after they spoke to the media." The union said later in a press release that seven workers were let go and called the incident the company's "most blatant act of union-busting yet."
Last month, a local reporter tweeted out a photo with the message, "You’re looking at the first @Starbucks employees in #Memphis trying to unionize. Hear their grievances, see the steps needed to form a union and find out who’s helping these workers" in promoting her story.
The image shows Starbucks employees, whose unionization efforts have pushed for greater protection from COVID-19, sitting around a table at their workplace without wearing masks as required.
The meeting was held after hours, and Starbucks says security footage shows the workers violating stringent policies by opening the doors and leaving them unattended after close of business while allowing in unauthorized people both behind the line and in the back of house. It also shows that an employee who was not a designated cash controller opened the store's safe and was allowed to do so, which Starbucks says was a significant violation of the rules carried out by those involved.
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A Starbucks spokesperson, Reggie Borges, explained to FOX Business that similar violations related to opening and closing – that had nothing to do with the media or union organization efforts – have resulted in "serious, serious incidents that impacted the mental health and physical well-being of employees and customers."
Borges said in a formal statement, "These policies protect partners as we have experienced tragic events when these policies have been violated."
A Grande Starbucks to go cup sitting on a table. Starbucks is a very popular International Coffeehouse franchise with over 15,000 locations in 50 countries. (iStock / iStock)
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Meanwhile, a former manager at the Memphis Starbucks location told More Perfect Union – an outlet that touts itself as "media that builds power for working people" – that the termination of the employees was "definitely union-busting" and said the policies cited for firing the employees were often violated under her watch and not typically offenses a worker would be let go over.
The former manager referred to the local reporter and producer in the coffee shop after hours as "customers" and suggested that they simply wanted to place orders.
As for the violation of "cash-handling policies," the former manager argued that the employee found in violation had not yet completed such training and therefore could not have known that they were in violation for opening the safe.
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