Starbucks tells employees they can’t wear Black Lives Matter pins or buttons during work
In the past few weeks, as individuals across the country are examining their role in perpetuating and benefitting from systemic racism, many large corporations have released statements denouncing racism and throwing their supporting behind the Black Lives Matter movement in any way they can. Starbucks was one of those companies. The Seattle coffee chain just announced on social media its solidarity and commitment to supporting the BLM movement, and yet, Starbucks employees have also been told they cannot wear any accessories (shirts, pins, or other gear) that supports that Black Lives Matter movement, because Starbucks believes it may “amplify divisiveness.”
Starbucks’ policy is shocking, not just because it contradicts their public statement of being “committed to taking action, learning, and supporting our Black partners, customers and communities,” but because Starbucks is one of the most inclusive companies when it comes to LQBTQ rights. Starbucks employees are encouraged to wear pins and accessories celebrating Pride, so the company’s decision to draw the line at racial inequality is suspect.
Starbucks claims that they fear an employee sporting a BLM message might incite violence from those who don’t understand it, writing in an internal memo (obtained by BuzzFeed News) to employees that “there are agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles of the Black lives Matter movement — and in certain circumstances, intentionally re-purpose them to amplify divisiveness.”
Although Starbucks claims the policy will protect employees from potential violence — or as a Starbucks rep told BuzzFeed News, it’s “to create a safe and welcoming” environment — one barista from Atlanta put it more bluntly when he told BuzzFeed that the company’s response “prioritizes those who feel discomfort over Black lives,” and not the other way around.
“My skin color incites violence at Starbucks. Should I not come to work?” the employee asked. “It is silencing and Starbucks is complicit. Now more than ever, Starbucks needs to stand with us.”
On Twitter, a Starbucks employee shared how she raised her first in solidarity with a group of protestors who marched past her store and was told by her manager that “Starbucks has to be neutral.” Neutral on what? The debate on whether or not racism is bad?
Starbucks claims they have a standard policy that “Partners are not permitted to wear buttons or pins that advocate a political, religious or personal issue,” though the company’s proud support of LGBTQ rights shows a different story.
A company spokesperson confirmed to BuzzFeed that the memo was real and stood by the statement.