As you’ve no doubt noticed by the influx of rainbow-overlaid brand logos, June is Pride Month. It’s the time of year when companies roll out their most saccharine displays of allyship, enough—they hope—to carry them through another 11 months of doing next to bubkis for LGBTQIA+ people. But still, perhaps it is progress that even the largest businesses in the world see it as a fiscally sound maneuvering to align themselves the queer community.
But one coffee company has decided maybe they should tone it down with their support during Pride Month. That company is of course Starbucks, who has allegedly banned all Pride decorations from their storefronts, and it has caused for a new round of strikes at Starbucks locations around the country.
Allegations of banning Pride Month decorations were initially levied by the Twitter account of Starbucks Workers United, the group leading charge in unionizing company-owned locations across the United States. While Starbucks was quick to deny the claim, stating that they “unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA2+ community” and that “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 U.S. Pride month in June,” Fast Company reported viewing messages from stores indicating that, at least on a regional level, these policies had changed.
Fast Company goes on to note that these apparent changes are being enforced “at a number of unionized stores,” and are “heavily represented” in “regions of America where anti-LGBTQ sentiment is growing,” particularly very red southern states. In messages viewed by Fast Company, the reason given by management was to have uniformity across locations and that if they allowed Pride decorations, they “would have to allow anyone to post/decorate with anything.”
In response, Starbucks Workers United on Friday, June 23rd called for strikes over the course of the following week, stating that over 3,500 workers will take part, per AP News. And over the weekend, they made good on the promise. Between Friday and Sunday, 21 company locations had to close down due to strikes, including the Reserve Roastery in Seattle. Per US News, the strikes will go on throughout the remainder of the week and will affect more than 150 locations.
The alleged banning of Pride decorations runs counter to many of the company’s prior policies regarding the LGBTQIA+ community. Starbucks is a current sponsor of Seattle Pride, has extended full health care benefits to same-sex partnerships since 1988, and even added coverage for gender affirming surgery. Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan has also noted that a Pride flag is currently flying over their Seattle headquarters.
Still, the brand has in the past banned certain expression of support for timely social issues. In 2020, for instance, during a wave of unrest caused by the murder of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis Police Department, Starbucks disallowed workers from wearing anything in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Stikes will continue through Friday, June 30th. For a list of participating Starbucks locations, visit the Starbucks Workers United official website.