Starbucks fires several employees involved in effort to unionize in Memphis

There are reportedly more than 50 Starbucks locations nationally that are in the process of forming unions.
Starbucks logo
Starbucks logo
(Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

Starbucks fired seven employees who were involved in an attempt to unionize in Memphis, Tennessee.

The firings have resulted in allegations of retaliation against the massive coffee chain, amid growing attempts by workers to unionize various facets of the U.S. labor market.

Starbucks says the employees were fired for serious security violations.

Last month, the employees allowed members of the media into their store as part of the public launch of their effort to organize. 

A Starbucks spokesperson told CNN that employees are allowed to speak freely with the media but did not have the authorization to be in the store after the close of business. The employees reportedly allowed the press into the back-of-house area of the store and left an unlocked front door unattended. One employee reportedly opened a safe without authorization.

"These egregious actions and blatant violations cannot be ignored. As a result of our investigation, several partners involved are no longer with Starbucks given the significant violations of these policies," the spokesperson said.

Nikki Taylor, one of the organizing members, is accusing Starbucks of "union-busting."

"I was fired by Starbucks today for 'policies' that I've never heard of before and that I've never been written up about before," she said in a press release about the incident.

Those fired also argued Starbucks used loosely enforced rules to fire them and that the violations should have resulted at most in a reprimand.

Starbucks spokesman Reggie Borges disputed Taylor's claim, saying that all company employees are given training related to store security and are made aware that violating company policies may result in termination. 

Several months ago, a Starbucks location in Buffalo, New York, became the first U.S. location of the chain to unionize. Labor leaders and organizers say more than 50 other stores across the country are currently in the process of unionizing. 

The Buffalo store's efforts were contentious among the corporate ranks of the conglomerate.

Top executives were deployed to Buffalo amid the union vote. The company argued that it already provides benefits that its most direct competitors do not, including health care coverage for part-time workers and reimbursements on college tuition.

The company added that its average hourly wage is $12 an hour, with more than half of U.S. employees earning more than $15 an hour.