On Friday, Starbucks stated that they would allow employees to wear gear that advocates for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, CNBC reported. This is a reversal from their previous stance, which prohibited employees from wearing clothing, pins, or other accessories that supported BLM. The reversal comes after the company faced backlash on social media for the policy.
Buzzfeed first reported about the company’s policy against Black Lives Matter gear on Wednesday. They obtained an internal memo from Starbucks corporate which addressed questions from store managers about whether employees would be allowed to wear BLM-related clothing or accessories. The Starbucks dress code prohibits employees from wearing personal clothing or accessories that support specific political or religious stances, which the company has argued includes clothing and accessories that support BLM.
In the internal memo obtained by Buzzfeed, store managers were asked to refer to a video in which the Starbucks Vice-President of inclusion and diversity explained that “agitators who misconstrue the fundamental principles” of Black Lives Matter could use employees wearing gear that supports BLM to “amplify divisiveness.” The memo also stated that BLM clothing and accessories could provoke violent responses from customers, which would put employees in harm’s way.
A Starbucks spokesperson stressed that the company is committed to addressing racism, but also stated that the dress code policy against clothing and accessories that promoted political ideas — including Black Lives Matter — would remain in place, Buzzfeed reported. The spokesperson claimed that the reason for this was to ensure that Starbucks locations remain “a safe and welcoming” place for all employees and patrons.
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
Buzzfeed reported that many employees from all over the country were upset and disappointed by the response. One Black barista said that the policy “prioritizes those who feel discomfort over Black lives.” Many employees told Buzzfeed they felt that Starbucks was more interested in protecting their image and their revenue than in fighting racism.
Starbucks has made gestures of support to the Black Lives Matter movement, Buzzfeed reported. The company has donated $1 million to anti-racism organizations and created extensive anti-bias training. However, many of their employees feel that these gestures are lip service, and they cited the dress code policy as proof.
Many employees also pointed out that Starbucks is vocal in their support of LGBTQ+ communities and allow employees to wear clothing and accessories promoting LGBTQ+ equality and pride, Buzzfeed reported. They said that allowing employees to wear LGBTQ+ gear but not BLM gear is hypocritical.
According to CNBC, the report on Starbucks’ dress code policy against Black Lives Matter gear was not well-received by the public. On social media, there were abundant calls for people to boycott the chain until they changed their policy. The coffee chain pivoted quickly, announcing not only that they would allow employees to wear BLM gear, but that they would be releasing BLM-inspired t-shirts for all their employees.
The company tweeted the t-shirt design, which features hands holding protest signs, including one that specifically says “Black Lives Matter” on Friday. In the tweet, the company reiterated their belief that black lives matter and their commitment to listening to the voices of people of color.