A union representing Starbucks employees on Tuesday accused the coffee chain of firing workers attempting to organize in the US state of Tennessee.
Starbucks Workers United said employees comprising "almost the entire union organizing committee" at a store in Memphis were fired weeks after two Starbucks stores in New York became the first to formally organize.
"I was fired by Starbucks today for 'policies' that I've never heard of before and that I've never been written-up about before," Nikki Taylor, who worked as a shift supervisor, said in a statement released by the union.
"This is a clear attempt by Starbucks to retaliate against those of us who are leading the union effort at our store and scare other partners."
A Starbucks spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday that seven workers were fired, but said the terminations were over violations of safety and security policies.
"We respect our partners' rights to organize," the spokesperson told AFP, noting that "we also expect our partners to follow the policies we have at our stores."
"We are not engaging in any anti-union activities," he added.
In December, two Starbucks stores in Buffalo, New York became the first in the United States to vote to unionize, and workers at more than 50 stores are now trying to do the same.
The coffee chain, which in October announced it was lifting its minimum wage to $15 an hour, has stressed that it is not against organized labor, but argued that the issues raised by workers do not justify a union.
Starbucks Workers United, whose members include the workers in New York, said the company fired employees in Tennessee after they allowed reporters to hold interviews in the store after it had closed for the day.
"Starbucks chose to selectively enforce policies that have not previously been consistently enforced," such as a ban on going behind the counter when no employees are working "as a subterfuge to fire union leaders," the statement said.
The union said it would file charges with the National Labor Relations Board.