A group of Starbucks employees were accused of kidnapping their manager after asking for a raise and new equipment, report says
- South Carolina authorities are investigating an alleged incident between employees and their manager.
- An employee told the outlet that allegations came after workers requested a pay raise and new equipment.
Authorities in Anderson, South Carolina, are investigating an incident that allegedly took place between employees and their manager on August 1.
The alleged incident happened amid ongoing unionizing efforts by Starbucks employees who asked for a pay increase and new equipment, according to The Daily Beast. Employees at the Anderson location unanimously voted to join the union, and the company, which had actively pushed back against union efforts.
A Starbucks spokesperson told Insider that authorities chose to investigate the incident as a kidnapping.
The outlet said the initial confrontation between the employees and the manager, Melissa Morris, sparked after employees accused Starbucks of retaliating against them for unionizing. A Starbucks spokesperson told Insider that authorities chose to investigate the incident as a kidnapping.
"We were tired of how management was treating us, not listening to our complaints," Aneil Tripathi, a 19-year-old who led the union efforts, told The Daily Beast. In response to growing union efforts, the outlet reported that Starbucks announced on May 3 that its new benefits package would be available on August 1 — but employees at unionized stores would not be eligible.
That prompted the Anderson employees to organize a March on the Boss, which is when workers present their demands directly to their employer. Tripathi told The Daily Beast they initially planned to confront their previous manager, but that manager quit and was replaced by Morris. The March on the Boss initiative happened during Morris' first shift on August 1, according to the outlet.
—More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) August 8, 2022
More Perfect Union, a social welfare organization aimed at fostering worker visibility in the media, tweeted audio of the interaction on August 8. In the audio, employees read Morris a letter requesting a pay raise and new equipment for the store. At the 6:28 mark, Morris can be heard asking the employees if she can leave the premises, to which they reply, "yes."
@sbworkersunited When workers stand up together, workers win. @Starbucks must end their union busting tactics now. #management #unionbusting #uniontok #marchontheboss #southcarolina ♬ original sound - SBWorkersUnited
On August 2, Starbucks Work United, a worker-led unionizing effort, shared a TikTok video of the alleged incident. In the video, Morris can be seen sitting at a table talking on the phone while a dozen employees stand nearby. She later leaves the table while still on the phone.
Tripathi told The Daily Beast that employees "weren't menacing" and kept a "good distance away" from Morris.
However, Morris filed a report with the Anderson County Sheriff's Office two days later over the incident," according to The Daily Beast.
Soon after, authorities interviewed employees about the incident, the outlet reported, adding that on August 6, Tripathi and 10 Anderson coworkers learned they were being suspended. The investigation is ongoing.
Starbucks said in a statement to The Daily Beast that the store manager "felt threatened and unsafe as a result of conduct by 11 store partners" and authorities advised them to suspend employees until the investigation is complete.
"They want to make an example out of us," Tripathi told the outlet, adding that they see the suspension as direct retaliation for their union efforts and that Morris was likely advised by Starbucks management to file the police report.
Representatives for Starbucks Workers United, the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, and Tripathi did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
Following news of the allegations, Senator Bernie Sanders called out Starbucks on Twitter.
"I cannot believe I have to say this, but workers who are organizing for better working conditions should not have to deal with their boss accusing them of kidnapping and assault," he wrote. "How outrageous. This campaign of rampant union-busting from Starbucks has got to end."
—Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) August 8, 2022
The latest union skirmish at Starbucks comes after a Tennessee judge ordered Starbucks to reinstate seven workers who said they were fired over union activity.
The push for unions began in August 2021 after Starbucks workers in Buffalo, New York, announced plans to unionize over understaffing, product shortages, and their experiences working in the pandemic.
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