Starbucks denies union's accusation of banning Pride decorations

Starbucks workers’ union accused the company on Tuesday of banning decorations for LGBTQ Pride Month.

The group, Starbucks Workers United, is alleging that the company’s corporate management has been asking its workers in at least 21 states to take down Pride decorations over the last two weeks, a claim that the company denies

The union said that workers in Massachusetts, for instance, were being told that there weren’t enough “labor hours” for employees to spend decorating. It added that in Oklahoma, some were told “it was a safety concern to block windows with flags” in light of threats to Target employees over that company’s Pride displays.

NBC News has not been able to independently verify the examples. 

“If Starbucks was a true ally, they would stand up for us, especially during a time when LGBTQ+ people are under attack,” the group said in a lengthy Twitter thread. “A company that cares wouldn’t turn their back on the LGBTQ+ community to protect their already astronomically high profits.”

Starbucks rejected the accusations and reaffirmed its support for the LGBTQ community.

“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 U.S. Pride month in June,” Andrew Trull, a spokesperson for the company, said in a statement. He pointed to “commitments and actions” the company has taken to support the community during the past 40 years.

“We’re deeply concerned by false information that is being spread especially as it relates to our inclusive store environments, our company culture, and the benefits we offer our partners,” Trull added. “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.”

The Seattle-based coffee giant has been celebrating Pride in some capacity since 1996, according to its website. And despite the union’s accusations regarding the Pride decorations, it released three Pride-themed drink tumblers this month and is expected to sponsor Pride celebrations, as it has in years past.

The allegation comes amid unprecedented times for the nation’s LGBTQ community.

More than 490 anti-LGBTQ bills have been filed in state legislatures across the country this year — a historic first — according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Many of the bills aim to curtail education on LGBTQ issues in schools, drag performances and transition-related health care, among other provisions, and have gained support from national Republican figures, such as former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

In addition to the record-breaking legislation, threats and attacks  directed to LGBTQ Americans have surged.

There have been an average of 39 anti-LGBTQ protests nationwide each month since June 2022 — according to recent report by the Crowd Counting Consortium, a research group that tracks the size of political protests — compared with just three per month from January 2017 through May 2022.

Just last week, a Pride flag was taken down and burned outside a City Hall building in Tempe, Arizona. And in New York City, a group of three men allegedly damaged multiple rainbow Pride flags on Saturday at New York City’s Stonewall National Monument.

The combination of legislation, threats and attacks has made navigating corporate commitment to the LGBTQ community arguably more complicated for large companies this Pride month.

Several weeks ago, Target pulled some of its Pride merchandise, following what a corporate spokesperson described as “threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and wellbeing while at work.” Target previously did not respond to questions regarding the nature of the threats against employees.

Online, some right-wing activists drew attention to the company’s Pride collection, accusing the company of “indoctrinating and grooming.” Conservative activists took particular issue with a “tuck-friendly” bathing suit for adults and the collection’s apparel for children. Clothing items for kids include supportive slogans, including “just be you” and “trans people will always exist!”

In addition to pulling some products, some Target stores responded by moving their Pride merchandise displays to less visible locations.

The accusations against Starbucks also follow the firestorm around Bud Light’s partnership with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney this spring. The beer brand’s sales have dropped following an online campaign and calls for boycotts.

On Tuesday, some right-wing activists declared victory over the Starbucks allegations.


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