Starbucks Workers at 150 Stores Launch Strike in Protest of Pride Decorations Policy

In an ongoing dispute over the coffee chain’s policy for Pride decorations in its stores, workers at approximately 150 unionized

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In an ongoing dispute over the coffee chain’s policy for Pride decorations in its stores, workers at approximately 150 unionized Starbucks locations in the United States have initiated a strike. The Starbucks Workers United union, representing organized stores, alleges that Starbucks has limited the display of Pride month decorations in some stores, accusing the company of demonstrating a “hypocritical treatment of LGBTQIA+ workers.” However, Starbucks has vehemently denied these claims.

According to a tweet from Starbucks Workers United, around 3,500 employees are expected to participate in the strike over the next week. Starbucks, on the other hand, maintains that store leaders have the autonomy to decorate stores as they wish for Pride and other heritage months, as long as the decorations comply with safety guidelines. The company asserts that it is unaware of any company-owned stores that have banned Pride decorations and points out that many locations have proudly shared their Pride decorations on social media.

A Starbucks spokesperson stated, “We unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA2+ community. There has been no change to any policy on this matter, and we continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities, including for US Pride month in June.” The spokesperson expressed deep concern over the dissemination of false information.

However, the union countered on Twitter, stating that the company’s responses have not been consistent, citing internal documents and testimonies from store managers. Starbucks Workers United claimed that local leaders within the company, who are given autonomy to “find ways to celebrate,” were the same individuals responsible for implementing Pride bans. The union referenced an article reporting the ban of Pride decor in approximately 100 locations across parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Missouri, which happen to be conservative regions. It is worth noting that numerous Starbucks locations throughout the country have prominently displayed Pride decorations.

Starbucks Workers United perceives this as an instance of Starbucks succumbing to pressure, similar to how Target responded by relocating or removing Pride merchandise from certain stores. Pride has become a contentious political issue this year, with conservative groups criticizing companies for endorsing inclusive celebrations.

Despite potential removals of Pride decorations by individual managers, Starbucks corporate maintains that there have been no changes to merchandising or other policies. The Seattle-based company has a history of implementing progressive employee policies, such as extending full health benefits to same-sex partners in 1988. In subsequent years, Starbucks added health coverage for gender reassignment surgery and allowed employees to use names or nicknames consistent with their gender identity or expression.

However, Starbucks has faced criticism for its approach to unionization efforts. In March, a National Labor Relations Board judge accused the company of engaging in “egregious and widespread misconduct” in its interactions with employees involved in unionizing efforts at Buffalo, New York, stores. Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had previously voiced opposition to unions, stating that he believed they had no place in Starbucks.

As the strike unfolds, Starbucks faces mounting pressure to address the concerns raised by its workers. The outcome of this dispute will undoubtedly impact Starbucks’ reputation and relationships with its employees.