Starbucks defends LGBTQ+ allyship after queer workers strike


Starbucks workers in the US have gone on strike in a dispute over Pride decorations and working conditions (Photo: @SBWorkersUnited / Twitter)

Starbucks has defended its LGBTQ+ allyship after workers in dozens of its coffee shops in the US went on strike, alleging that the multinational chain had restricted Pride decorations.

Last week, Starbucks Workers United (SWU) announced that thousands of Starbucks staff across the country would strike over workers’ rights and because some stores refused to display rainbow flags to commemorate Pride Month.

“Starbucks has positioned itself as a progressive company. However, its actions often fail to live up to these professed values,” stated SWU in a petition. “Let’s hold Starbucks accountable and make it clear that we’re not buying into their empty claims of being a good company.”

The union asserted that Starbucks had unilaterally changed its Pride decoration policies and complained about harsh working conditions and alleged anti-union actions.

“Our store’s Pride flag was taken down at a time when being out and proud is needed more than ever,” wrote the employees of a Starbucks store in Bloomington, Indiana, to management.

“By capitulating to those who threaten homophobic and transphobic violence, you are not only inviting these individuals into our store but into society as a whole, thus putting our predominantly LGBTQ workforce in even greater danger. Meanwhile, you continue to profit off the labor of these overworked LGBTQ employees who are constantly teetering on the brink of poverty,” they said.

LGBTQ+ employees and their supporters picketed outside stores and participated in Pride marches throughout the US to highlight their grievances against the company.

However, Starbucks has insisted that “there has been no change to any of our policies as it relates to our inclusive store environments, our company culture, and the benefits we offer our partners.”

The company also posted photos of Starbucks partners and employees celebrating Pride around the country on its website.

Laxman Narasimhan, CEO of Starbucks, stated that the company would “continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities, including during US Pride month in June, as we always have.”

“We want to be crystal clear – Starbucks has been and will continue to be at the forefront of supporting the LGBTQIA2+ community, and we will not waver in that commitment!” he continued.

The company now plans to issue “clearer centralised guidelines” for in-store visual displays and decorations “that will continue to represent inclusivity and our brand.”

According to CNN, Starbucks has filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board, countering claims made by Starbucks Workers United, and accusing the union of engaging in a “smear campaign” and making deliberately false and malicious statements about Starbucks’ longstanding support of Pride Month and decorations in its stores.”

The union has dismissed the charges and responded that “while we are glad Starbucks is finally reconsidering its position on Pride decorations, Starbucks continues to ignore that they are legally required to bargain with union workers.”

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