KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Starbucks located off Kingston Pike and Montvue Center Way abruptly closed for a second time Monday after its workers walked out and organized another strike. This comes weeks after the location unionized.
Workers striking outside the location said one of the employees who took part in Saturday's strike was "unfairly pulled aside and retaliated against."
Employees said they would continue to strike until management apologizes and takes back the disciplinary action following the first walkout.
The first strike began Saturday evening when workers protested unsafe working conditions and short staffing when large crowds were in town for the UT game.
"We wanted to walk out to show that we don't agree with this decision," barista Bri Craig said. "The big thing that had us come down here is that we had partners encouraged to come to work positive with COVID-19."
Workers said Starbucks leaders are not taking COVID-19 seriously anymore and the store is increasingly short-staffed because of cases and exposures.
"We're drowning, and we're making record profits, record sales, and all we have to show for it is that we're just out there every day struggling and suffering and we're tired of it," Craig said.
A spokesperson from Starbucks said Saturday, "We fully respect our partner and their right to have their voices heard. We appreciate their unconditional commitment to return to work Sunday morning for the store's opening."
This is not the first time local Starbucks workers went on strike. In early September, Alcoa Starbucks workers also went on strike after they said the company tried to stop them from organizing as a labor union. Employees said once they returned to work an employee was written up.
"We believe there was retaliation against the union," said Danielle Jones, a Starbucks shift manager. "A worker that was striking with us yesterday was unfairly pulled aside and retaliated against."
Employees would not name the person written up but said they will continue their strike Tuesday if Starbucks management does not undo it.
The Kingston Pike and Montvue Starbucks was part of a wave of more than a hundred stores across the U.S. in recent months that voted to unionize and join Starbucks Workers United. It was the second Knoxville store to vote in favor of unionizing following the Merchant Drive location's vote in March.