UPDATED 6/12, 10:30 a.m. ET: Starbucks has swiftly changed its tune, tweeting, "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. In response to this historic time, our store partners can also show support for the Black Lives Matter movement with their own t-shirts, pins and name tags."
On its site, the coffee chain shared a post titled "Standing together against racial injustice." The company conceded that, "You’ve told us you need a way to express yourself at work, asking: 'Do you understand how I feel!?' 'Do you understand the black community is in pain?' We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter. That is a fact and will never change."
The company said its employees will get "additional operational guidance" by Monday, June 15. "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."
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BuzzFeed News obtained the memo, which reminded staffers of the company’s accessories policy that forbids accessories that “advocated a political, religious or personal issue.” A number of employees told the outlet that the company commonly permits and even advocates that employees don pro-LGBTQ+ pins, particularly during Pride Month in June.
“Starbucks LGBTQ+ partners wear LGBTQ+ pins and shirts, that also could incite and create violent experiences amongst partners and customers,” a black transgender Starbucks employee told BuzzFeed. “We have partners who experienced harassment and transphobia/homophobia for wearing their pins and shirts, and Starbucks still stands behind them.”
The memo also reportedly included a video from a top company executive, who cautioned workers that “agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles” of BLM could attempt to “amplify divisiveness” if messages from the movement were visible in stores.
“We know your intent is genuine and understand how personal this is for so many of us. This is important and we hear you,” the memo read.
A company spokesperson verified to BuzzFeed that the memo was indeed authentic, and said these types of messages are banned “to create a safe and welcoming” setting at Starbucks locations. “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.