Starbucks Union Raises Pressure With Plan to Strike Over Pride Décor

on Jun23
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Thousands of workers at organized Starbucks stores across the nation will stage strikes over the next week, their union said on Friday, after workers in some states said management prohibited them from putting up decorations for Pride Month.

The company denied the accusations and issued a statement declaring that it “has been and will continue to be at the forefront of supporting the LGBTQIA2+ community.”

Starbucks Workers United said employees at more than 150 stores would strike over the company’s labor practices and its “hypocritical treatment of LGBTQIA+ workers.”

The union represents about 8,000 of the company’s workers in more than 300 stores.

Starbucks workers in a number of stores said this month that they had been told that no decorations for the annual L.G.B.T.Q. celebration, such as rainbow flags, were allowed this year, a shift from previous years. In interviews arranged through their union, workers said the given reasons varied.

Starbucks, which has roughly 9,300 corporate-owned stores in the United States, has said decoration policies are often specific to each store.

A Starbucks official involved in the response to the union campaign said the company decided last year, after the union campaign began to spread across the country, to be more aggressive in enforcing dress codes and policies on what could be posted in stores. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, attributed the change to concern that many stores would otherwise become inundated with union paraphernalia.

But a Starbucks spokeswoman on Friday called the claim “false” and said there had been no change in the company’s guidance on displays and decorations in the past nine years.

A corporate statement — over the names of Laxman Narasimhan, the chief executive, and Sara Trilling, executive vice president and president, North America — did not address store-by-store practices. But it noted that for Pride Month, the rainbow flag was being flown over the company’s Seattle headquarters and in thousands of Starbucks stores.

“We continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities including for U.S. Pride Month in June,” it said.

Casey Moore, a union spokeswoman, derided the corporate statement, saying, “Instead of apologizing for there being upper management across the country who made the decision to not allow Pride decorations, they’ve doubled down that it didn’t happen.”

In addition to its complaints over the Pride decoration issue, the union said it was striking over the company’s broader response to the organizing campaign, including widespread retaliation against union supporters. The union said in its statement that workers were “demanding that Starbucks negotiate a fair contract with union stores and stop their illegal union-busting campaign.”

The company has consistently denied accusations of illegality.

Starbucks workers and the union say rules on employee conduct have been enforced more aggressively as a way to intimidate and retaliate against union supporters.

“They’re trying to make people feel unwelcome in whatever way possible — through more strict enforcement of the dress code or anything,” said Ms. Moore, the union spokeswoman. “The Pride decorations are another level of that.”

In a sweeping ruling in March, a federal administrative law judge found that Starbucks had repeatedly violated labor law by “more strictly enforcing the dress code and personal appearance policy in response to union activity.” The judge also found that the company had more strictly enforced its attendance policy and its policy on soliciting and distributing notices within stores.

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