Strikes planned at more than 150 Starbucks stores over LBGTQ+ decor

Starbucks Pride
A Starbucks sign sits above a store in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in New York. Starbucks is denying union organizers’ claims that it banned LGBTQ+ Pride displays in its U.S. stores after Target and other brands experienced backlash. The Seattle coffee giant says there has been no change to its policy and it encourages store leaders to celebrate Pride in June. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Workers at more than 150 Starbucks locations across the country are planning to go on strike as the coffee chain and a union representing baristas clash over displays supporting LBGTQ+ causes in stores during Pride month.

Starbucks Workers United said in a tweet Friday that 3,500 workers will be on strike over the next week.

Starbucks has consistently denied claims by union organizers that it was banning Pride displays in its U.S. stores after brands like DisneyTarget and Bud Light suffered a related backlash and negative social media campaigns in some parts of the country.

Even brands like Chick-fil-A, which closes on Sundays for a day of “rest and worship,” and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store have been targeted online by anti-LBGTQ+ groups and individuals.

Starbucks on Friday said that the union is using misinformation as part of ongoing contract negotiations.

“Workers United continues to spread false information about our benefits, policies and negotiation efforts—a tactic used to seemingly divide our partners and deflect from their failure to respond to bargaining sessions for more than 200 stores,” Starbucks said in a written statement.

A Buffalo Starbucks location was the first to unionize in early 2022 and at least 358 Starbucks stores have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections, but those efforts have slowed in recent months with pushback from some workers who have resisted organization efforts.

The union that represents baristas, Workers United, says that store managers around the country have curtailed or removed displays during a monthlong celebration of LGBTQ+ people. In some cases, the union said, managers told workers that Pride displays were a safety concern, citing recent incidents at Target where some angry customers tipped over merchandise and confronted workers.

Seattle-based Starbucks said last week that there had been no change to any policy on the matter and that its support is “unwavering.” The company has been outspoken in its support for LGBTQ+ employees for decades. It extended full health benefits to same-sex partners in 1988 and added health coverage for gender reassignment surgery in 2013.

Starbucks Corp. is also currently selling Pride-themed tumblers in its stores designed by Toronto artist Tim Singleton, who is gay.