Workers at about 150 unionized Starbucks stores in the United States are going on strike Friday over a dispute about the coffee chain’s policy for Pride decorations in stores.
(SBUX) Workers United, the union representing organized stores, has claimed that Starbucks
(SBUX) has restricted decorations celebrating Pride month in some locations, demonstrating a “hypocritical treatment of LGBTQIA+ workers.” Starbucks
(SBUX) has forcefully denied this claim.
About 3,500 employees “will be on strike over the course of the next week,” Starbucks Workers United posted in a tweet.
Store leaders are able to decorate stores as they wish for Pride and other heritage months, as long as those decorations adhere to safety guidelines, according to the company. Starbucks said it is not aware of any company-owned stores that have banned Pride decorations.
The company also pointed out that many stores have shared their Pride decorations on social media.
“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,” a Starbucks spokesperson said, adding, “We’re deeply concerned by false information that is being spread.”
However, the union responded on Twitter that the company’s “own responses have not been consistent” based on internal documents and testimonies from store managers.
“Starbucks gives autonomy to local leaders to ‘find ways to celebrate.’ These leaders are the same ones issuing many of the Pride bans,” it said pointing to an article that Pride decor was banned from about 100 locations across parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. Those locations are in some of the more conservative regions of a deeply divided United States. Many Starbucks locations across the country have been displaying Pride decorations.
Starbucks Workers United says this is an example of Starbucks bowing to pressure, as Target did when moving or removing Pride merchandise from some stores. Pride has become a political flashpoint this year, with the right attacking companies for celebrating the inclusive celebrations.
But, even if some individual managers have removed their Pride decorations, Starbucks corporate has not changed any merchandising or other policies.
The Seattle-based company has a history of progressive policies for employees dating back to 1988 when it extended full health benefits for same-sex partners. In 2013, it added health coverage for gender reassignment surgery and two years later let employees express themselves with a name or nickname that is “consistent with their gender identity or expression,” according to the company.
Still, Starbucks has generated a reputation of cracking down on unionizing. Starbucks was recently accused of displaying “egregious and widespread misconduct” in its dealings with employees involved in efforts to unionize Buffalo, New York, stores, a National Labor Relations Board judge said in March.
Previous Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz had been a vocal opponent of unions.
“I don’t think a union has a place in Starbucks,” Schultz told CNN’s Poppy Harlow. If workers “file for a petition to be unionized, they have a right to do so. But we as a company have a right also to say, we have a different vision that is better,” he said.