Starbucks forbids employees from wearing Black Lives Matter clothing

The company is accused of not supporting its workers who want to exercise their support of BLM. Users on social media are calling for a boycott.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 24: Pedestrians walk by a Starbucks Coffee shop on January 2019 (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Starbucks sent its employees an internal memo informing them that they can’t support the Black Lives Matter movement with clothing or accessories.

READ MORE: Companies touting Black Lives Matter face workforce scrutiny

Buzzfeed reported that it obtained the memo in which the chain warned that supporting the movement would be a violation of their dress code. It would be seen as an endorsement of “political, religious, or personal issue.”

Protesters hold signs as they gather to protest police brutality and racism in the US, with the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 29, 2020.  (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

A video was shown to employees in which its VP of inclusion and diversity, Zing Shaw, says that “agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles” of the BLM movement can “amplify divisiveness.” The video has since been removed and those who work for Starbucks believe the company is in the wrong.

Calvin Bensen, 22, works as a barista in Atlanta describes the actions undertaken by Starbucks as “violent.” Bensen, who is Black and identifies as transgender, said the company was placing the comfort of others who are against Black Lives Matter against his well-being and that of those who look like him.

“My skin color incites violence at Starbucks. Should I not come to work?” he asked. “It is silencing and Starbucks is complicit. Now more than ever, Starbucks needs to stand with us.”

(Credit: BuzzFeed and Starbucks)

Benson said it hurt to know that Starbucks offered the LGBTQ community its full support, even going as far as to hand out pins. But they drew the line at affirming Black lives in the same way.

READ MORE: Starbucks regional manager files lawsuit claiming racial discrimination


Starbucks (Photo by Melanie Conner/Getty Images)

“Starbucks LGBTQ+ partners wear LGBTQ+ pins and shirts that also could incite and create violent experiences amongst partners and customers,” Benson said, adding that employees were able to wear LGBTQ+ pins and shirts without purchasing them directly from Starbucks.

“We have partners who experienced harassment and transphobia/homophobia for wearing their pins and shirts, and Starbucks still stands behind them.”

A Starbucks spokesperson insisted the company is dedicated to ending “systemic racism,” but the dress code would remain in place for employees. It is, they say, to ensure a safe and welcoming environment for customers and staff.

“We respect all of our partners’ opinions and beliefs, and encourage them to bring their whole selves to work while adhering to our dress code policy,” the spokesperson said.

On social media, Starbucks has posted messages of support for the Black Lives Matter movement which has come into heightened focus since the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd generated global protests.

There is also an option available for partners of the coffee giant to buy a Black Partner Network T-shirt that fosters conversation around the “African diaspora.”

They’ve also pledged $1 million to help promote racial equality and in 2018, they enacted their Third Way policy which was to make their stores “the third place, a warm and welcoming environment where customers can gather and connect.”

Some of their employees now feel that these efforts are simply for show, labeling the censoring of support for BLM as “performative,” “shallow,” and “hypocritical.” A barista on the East coast who chose not to be identified claimed that Starbucks was motivated by money.

“We have a police detail outside of the store most days anyway. Let’s just call him over if a customer is offended by someone’s BLM pin,” the employee said. “There’s something deeper here. [Starbucks CEO] Kevin Johnson talks a big talk on Twitter, but he’s still the head of a multibillion-dollar company that has to keep up with its image. God forbid if employees tarnish that pristine global image.”

There were those that agreed with the decision by Starbucks. Some felt that that supporting Black Lives Matter would be seen as anti-police.

“Think of the families that have also have hurt emotional [sic] and physically from violence and threats from those that associate with BLM that are not peaceful,” one employee wrote on the internal portal for Starbucks.

READ MORE: Starbucks pays Black workers less than white counterparts, study shows

Social media weighed in with the #BoycottStarbucks hashtag.

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