The coffee chain had faced backlash for forcing workers to stick to the strict company dress code.

By Mike Pomranz
June 12, 2020
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Starbucks Bans Black Lives Matter Clothing and Accessories
Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

In a swift policy change, this morning, Starbucks announced that employees can wear attire expressing their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, after initially stating that pins, shirts, and other accessories supporting the cause violated the company's uniform.

On June 10, BuzzFeed News exposed trouble behind the scenes, reporting that many Starbucks employees were unhappy that the chain explicitly stated that wearing pins or T-shirts supporting Black Lives Matter was against the company dress code policy. The move also sparked significant social media backlash. On June 12, the chain announced it had decided to change course. “We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter. That is a fact and will never change,” the company announced today.

In an open letter to partners from Chief Operating Officer Roz Brewer, President of U.S. Company-Operated Business & Canada Rossann Williams, and Global Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer Zing Shaw, the trio wrote, “These are alarming, uncertain times and people everywhere are hurting. You’ve told us you need a way to express yourself at work.”

They continue, “As we talked about earlier this week, we’re designing new t-shirts with the graphic below to demonstrate our allyship and show we stand together in unity. Until these arrive, we’ve heard you want to show your support, so just be you. Wear your BLM pin or t-shirt. We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity.”

On Twitter, Starbucks further explained that these Starbucks Black Partner Network co-designed t-shirts “will soon be sent to 250,000+ store partners.” The company also explained that “additional operation guidance” will be provided on Monday.

Starbucks has faced backlash over a tone-deafness to race in the past. In 2018, the chain temporarily closed over 8,000 stores to educate employees on the concept and repercussions of racial bias after two black men were arrested when a Philadelphia Starbucks manager accused them of loitering. And a report later in the year suggested that the company still needed a “racial equity overall.”