Home Coffee shop Starbucks fires 7 Memphis employees involved in union effort after store interview

Starbucks fires 7 Memphis employees involved in union effort after store interview

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Borges noted a photo posted on Twitter showing employees giving after-hours maintenance and said the front door was also left unlocked at the store.

“Our safety and security policies are in place to protect our partners and to protect our customers and the communities we serve,” he said. “These egregious actions and egregious violations cannot be ignored.”

But Starbucks Workers United, the group that helps Starbucks stores organize, says the company is “busting unions” and retaliating against local leaders in organizing efforts. A union spokesperson told the Post that Starbucks fired five of the six union committee leaders and two other workers who are also pro-trade unionist.

“If Starbucks had systematically fired people for the violations they fired Memphis workers for, they would have a hard time keeping a lot of people on staff,” Starbucks Workers United spokesman Casey Moore said in a statement. a statement.

Kylie Throckmorton, one of the terminated employees, told the Post that Starbucks “wasted a lot of time” and vowed to defend herself against the company’s decision.

“We’re going to make sure Starbucks can’t do this in another store,” Throckmorton said.

Borges disputed the charge that company rules were being selectively enforced, saying Memphis workers were trained in store safety and warned that violating the policy could result in dismissal.

Starbucks Workers United filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday night, accusing the company of unlawfully firing Memphis workers. The NLRB find last year that Starbucks had unlawfully retaliated against two baristas in 2019 and 2020 who sought to unionize a Philadelphia store — illegally spying on protected conversations and firing them. The company contests the judgment.

While Starbucks Workers United said it’s confident that laid-off workers in Memphis “will be reinstated with back pay,” Borges said there should be a “pretty slim” chance that staff members will be rehired if they don’t. they decided to apply for a job at Starbucks.

The layoffs come months after workers at Starbucks in Buffalo became the first unionized site among the coffee giant’s 9,000 stores in the United States. Since then, union organizers say more than 50 other stores across the country are holding union elections.

Throckmorton said the idea to unionize the store where she worked, near the University of Memphis, came shortly after what unfolded in western New York. During her nearly two years there, Throckmorton said workers routinely worked in what she described as “unsafe conditions,” with water leaking into refrigerators and causing slips and falls. She alleged that the company did not speak to employees concerns. Borges said the company “took immediate action on the issues raised by this partner to ensure they were resolved.”

Throckmorton said, “We saw the fire of organizing starting to spread from Buffalo, and we decided we had to push here.”

In January, seven employees gave a TV interview inside the Memphis store in an effort “to help people understand what was going on in the store,” Throckmorton said. During this time, Borges said, employees flagrantly violated several company policies, including opening a locked door in the store, allowing unauthorized members of the media into after hours, and areas where access is restricted, and staying inside without permission after hours. Borges said an employee also opened the store’s safe when that person “was not the designated checkout controller.”

“Anyone who is not a partner or any partner who is not on duty is not allowed access to the store after hours, period,” Borges said. “It’s a clear violation, and we have video footage that shows it.”

But the workers argued that some of the alleged violations were standard practice at the store – and that they had not previously been disciplined for them.

“We did not violate the policy,” Throckmorton said, noting that employees had had people in the store after hours previously and had not suffered any consequences.

Shortly after the interview, Starbucks conducted an investigation and interviewed all seven employees, Borges said. The spokesperson pointed out that the company had not disciplined employees for giving media interviews or for seeking to unionize.

“There’s nothing you can point to when we got partners to stop them from unionizing,” Borges said.

On Tuesday morning, Memphis employees were invited by a manager to come into the store for one-on-one meetings to talk about “what the store was going to look like” going forward, Throckmorton said. Upon arrival, the workers were greeted by Starbucks officials who told them they had been fired for multiple reasons, none of which involved the union organizing efforts.

“They told me it was time for me to leave,” Throckmorton said, adding that she and her six colleagues were “extremely upset.”

News of the layoffs was met with local and national backlash. Tennessee State Senator Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat representing Memphis, backed the workers in a statement to WREGsaying, “We live in America, the land of the free, where we value hard work and where it’s illegal to fire people for forming a union.”

A GoFundMe launched by Starbucks Workers United in support of laid-off Memphis workers raised about $35,000 early Wednesday.

“If Starbucks thought this would shut us up, they are very wrong,” the organizers wrote. “Our movement is only going from strength to strength and we know we will get our jobs, our union and our basic human and civil right to unionize back.

Throckmorton relied heavily on Starbucks work and took a semester off from the University of Memphis to help with the organizing effort. She said the union push at the Memphis store was reinvigorated after she and her co-workers were laid off. The 20-year-old already has another job planned at a local cafe, but plans to spend even more time getting her former colleagues from Memphis Starbucks unionized.

“Now that we’re gone, everyone is upset about it and everyone is pushing to unionize,” she said. “I won’t support Starbucks anymore, but I do support the people there.”

Greg Jaffe, Eli Rosenberg and Joanna Slater contributed to this report.