Starbucks Workers Go On Strike Over Pride Decor Removal

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On Sunday, dozens of U.S. Starbucks stores were picketed over claims by the baristas union that managers had removed Pride flags or decor from several stores. The union announced its strike on Friday. It is believed that 3,000 Starbucks workers will join the strike over the course of the week. This would make it the largest-ever national strike against Starbucks.

Workers from a New York Lower Manhattan store chanted “New York is a union town” on Sunday as they picketed near the route of the Pride Parade. “On Strike! Shut it Down!” Many customers refused to cross a picket to patronize the business. Maggie McKeon decided to turn back after learning about the strike. She said: “If the people will be affected, I am with them and not the company.”

Starbucks responded to the claims on Sunday that it had removed Pride décor, saying:

We support the LGBTQIA2+ Community without reservation. Starbucks has not changed its policy regarding decorations, so it would be incorrect to say that the stores have banned any decor. We are deeply concerned about the false information that is being spread regarding our inclusive store environments and company culture.

Despite Starbucks’ claims, social media videos from recent weeks show that Pride decorations and flags were removed from stores.

Starbucks sent a memo on June 14, 2014, to its store managers clarifying “misinformation” and stating that “local leaders” have the autonomy to “find authentic ways to celebrate year-round”.

Pro-unionist outlets claim that the decision to refrain from decorating stores was made by “higher-ups.” In Oklahoma City, a manager’s note to staff written on June 5 revealed that the decision was made last year at a regional level. The note said:

I understand that there have been concerns about not decorating for Pride this year. Last year, a decision was taken on a regional basis to ensure consistency between stores.

The note instead suggested that workers decorate a chalkboard located outside the store. Mid-May, a manager told a supervisor that Pride decorations from last year were to be disposed of. The manager then confirmed to the lawyer of the union that Pride celebrations would be scrapped in 2023. In a phone call on June 7, a union leader reported that the Area 120 Regional Director of Operations (which includes Oklahoma City) had informed him that he decided to remove Pride decorations “after consulting with upper management.”

Starbucks refuted in the letter sent to Fox the previous accusations of the Workers United union, that the company threatened union organizers including queer and trans-identifying individuals with a reduction in their scheduled hours, which would prevent them from qualifying for health insurance covering gender reassignment surgeries and other procedures. In the last year, as union organizing efforts intensified, more employees have reported having unpredictable schedules or their hours being reduced below the required 20 hours per week to qualify for health insurance. Starbucks denied that they had changed their health insurance and called the claims “false allegations.”

Starbucks’ health insurance covers sex-change surgery since 2012. In 2018, the company began to cover procedures that are considered cosmetic surgery by other health plans, such as breast implants, facial feminization, and hair transplants. It began providing health insurance to same-sex domestic couples in 1988, which was extremely rare at that time. The coffee company was later involved in a court battle before the U.S. Supreme Court to support gay marriage.

Jackie Zhou, 21, a shift supervisor in the Astor Place shop, in lower Manhattan, says that the socially progressive reputation of the company isn’t sustaining itself during labor organizing. “Once they decided to unionize…they were like ‘We’ve got enough of this progressive crap. ‘”

Sam Cornetta (23), an employee at the Farmingville location in New York, joined his coworkers for a strike on Astor Place. Cornetta dismissed the virtue signaling of the company as mere performance. Cornetta stated: “They have used their claim of being a progressive and inclusive company to attract these types of people.” There is a performative element.”

The Fight for 15 campaign on Monday released a one-minute video in which Zhou explains the demands of the workers over a jazzy background.

Starbucks has been in talks with more than 300 U.S. unionized locations since late 2022. This is to respond to demands from pro-union baristas, who want more policies against discrimination. As of yet, no recent unionized cafes have reached an agreement for a contract with the company.

Arthur Pratt was terminated in November 2022 for allegedly supporting labor organizing in his Portland, Oregon, store. The union believes this is retaliation. Starbucks shared Pratt’s version of the siren logo on social media with rainbow hair. He made a poster condemning Starbucks in another art project he did this year. It was done ahead of Pride Month. It read:

You can’t say you’re pro-queer and be anti-union!

The complaint that the union filed with the National Labor Relations Board was one of hundreds of similar allegations. A jury awarded $25 million to a woman who was fired from Starbucks because she is white. This incident raises the question “How woke can you get?”