Starbucks lays off 7 employees involved in Memphis union effort

By Allison Morrow, CNN Business

Starbucks has fired seven workers involved in union organizing in Memphis, Tennessee, fueling accusations the company is retaliating against a growing labor movement at its locations across the United States.

Starbucks denied that the layoffs were related to employee organizing efforts. A company spokesman, Reggie Borges, said the workers were fired for serious safety breaches.

The layoffs stem from an incident last month in which employees allowed members of the media into the store as part of the public launch of their organizing effort.

Borges told CNN Business that Starbucks employees are allowed to speak freely with the media if they wish, but members of the press and some staff were not permitted to be in the store. after the close of business. Employees allowed media into the private back room area while leaving an unlocked door unattended, Borges said. Another member of staff opened a safe when not authorized.

“These egregious actions and egregious violations cannot be ignored,” Borges said in an email. “As a result of our investigation, several partners involved are no longer with Starbucks given material violations of these policies.”

Starbucks Workers United, the union that helps several stores organize, accused the company of “union busting” and selectively applying these policies to target union leaders.

“I was terminated by Starbucks today for ‘policies’ that I’ve never heard of before and never written about before,” shift manager Nikki Taylor said in a statement. union press.

Borges disputed the charge, saying all Starbucks employees receive training related to store safety and are told that violating the policy could result in dismissal.

The Memphis layoffs come just two months after a cafe in Buffalo, New York, became the first US Starbucks to unionize. Union organizers say more than 50 other stores across the United States are also pursuing union elections.

Even though Buffalo’s effort only affected 100 employees, Starbucks fought hard against the effort, sending in the company’s top brass to try to sway the vote. The company argues that it already offers many benefits that others in the industry do not, including health care coverage for part-time workers and tuition reimbursement. Its average salary is more than $12 an hour, the company says, adding that more than half of its American employees earn more than $15 an hour.

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