Starbucks will now allow employees to wear Black Lives Matter apparel during their shifts, a strong departure from the company’s prior stance, as articulated in an internal memo last week that subjected the company to backlash after it was leaked to Buzzfeed News.
“Black lives matter and Starbucks is committed to doing our part in ending systemic racism,” said Starbucks in a Friday statement. “As a company, Starbucks leaders continue to listen to partners (employees) about how they want to take a stand for justice, while proudly wearing the green apron and standing united together.”
In a public letter also published on Friday, three Starbucks executives notified employees that they could wear their own Black Lives Matter pins or t-shirts until the company’s own affiliate t-shirts were printed.
“We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity. We trust you to do what’s right while never forgetting Starbucks is a welcoming third place where all are treated with dignity and respect,” said the executives.
As Buzzfeed News previously reported, Starbucks employees have previously had the option to buy t-shirts from the Starbucks-affiliated Black Partner Network, which tries to encourage conversation “around the African diaspora.”
The network’s new, not-yet-printed design features the phrases “Black Lives Matter,” “It’s not a moment, it’s a movement,” and “everyone v. racism,” among several other phrases.
After facing public backlash over the memo, including calls to boycott the company, Starbucks amplified the t-shirt design on Friday in a pinned Tweet, saying that it was preparing to distribute 250,000 of the optional t-shirts to employees, who would not be charged for them.
Black Lives Matter. We continue to listen to our partners and communities and their desire to stand for justice together. The Starbucks Black Partner Network co-designed t-shirts with this graphic that will soon be sent to 250,000+ store partners. pic.twitter.com/Wexb45RcTE
— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) June 12, 2020
“We won’t always get things right, but we’re committed to listening to our partners (employees) to help us understand how we can make Starbucks an inclusive and welcoming place for all,” tweeted the company in an apparent nod to the previous policy.
The authenticity of the internal memo that pushed back against requests to wear Black Lives Matter pins or t-shirts was originally confirmed to Buzzfeed News by a spokesperson for the company: “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 memo stated in part: “Partners may only wear buttons or pins issued to the partner by Starbucks for special recognition or for advertising a Starbucks-sponsored event or promotion. … Partners are not permitted to wear buttons or pins that advocate a political, religious, or personal issue.”
The memo also suggested that any employees who wanted to “show support for black partners” could wear the “Keep It Brewing” t-shirt, which had already been developed by the Black Partners Network. The “Keep It Brewing” t-shirt depicts a steaming cup of coffee with the continent of Africa and a heart on the front.
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