Starbucks plans to issue "clearer" centralised guidelines for in-store visual displays following a union's allegations that managers banned Pride-themed decor, the coffee chain said in an internal memo to employees.
"We intend to issue clearer centralized guidelines... for in-store visual displays and decorations that will continue to represent inclusivity and our brand," Starbucks North America president Sara Trilling said in the memo.
The memo comes after the union representing the coffee chain's baristas alleged that managers at dozens of Starbucks locations had prevented employees from putting up Pride Month flags and decorations, or had removed them. The coffee giant disputes these allegations.
More than 3,000 workers at over 150 Starbucks stores in the United States will walk off the job, the union said on Friday 23 June.
Starbucks also filed two complaints against Workers United with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on Monday, alleging that the union made misleading claims on the company's in-store decoration guidelines and gender-affirming care benefits.
The union said in an emailed statement to Reuters that every charge against them by Starbucks was dismissed by the NLRB, adding that any new charges will also be dismissed because "they are nothing more than a public relations stunt meant to distract from Starbucks' own actions."
The union added that if Starbucks wants to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, they will actually listen to their queer workers by coming to the bargaining table to negotiate in good faith.
NLRB did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Several US retail brands have faced backlash from conservatives over the display of LGBTQ+ merchandise, as well as criticism from gay rights groups for insufficient support for the community.
Starbucks Workers At Over 150 Stores To Go On Strike Over Pride Decor Dispute
The above news follows news that more than 3,000 workers at over 150 Starbucks stores in the United States will walk off the job over the next week, the union representing the coffee chain's baristas said on Friday 23 June, following claims the company had banned Pride Month decorations at some of its cafes.
The strikes are also aimed at pushing the company to reach fair labor contracts for improved pay and benefits, the Starbucks Workers United union added. The company is yet to reach any collective bargaining agreements at its newly unionised cafés.
Starbucks runs about 9,000 US company-owned locations.
The strike comes ahead of a big weekend for US Pride Month celebrations, with Pride Parades set to take place on Sunday 25 June in several major cities including New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago.
The union claims that managers at dozens of Starbucks locations had prevented employees from putting up Pride Month flags and decorations, or had removed them.
Starbucks on Friday 23 June called the claims "false information". It said last week there had been "no change to any policy on this matter" and it was still encouraging store managers to celebrate Pride Month as long as store safety guidelines were followed.
Several US retail brands have faced backlash from conservatives over the display of LGBTQ+ merchandise, as well as criticism from gay rights groups for insufficient support for the community after the companies relented under pressure from conservatives.
US retailer Target was forced to pull some Pride merchandise off shelves after confrontations between some shoppers and store workers, while Anheuser-Busch InBev's efforts to market to the transgender community have led to a steep drop in sales of its Bud Light beer in recent weeks.
Shareholders are taking note. Earlier in June, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who manages the state's public pension funds, wrote to Starbucks, Target and more than 50 other companies in which the funds are invested.
DiNapoli asked them to explain how they were managing corporate risks from recent attacks on LGBTQ+ equality, including their approach to state legislation that could hurt recruitment, and how they were supporting LGBTQ+ employees.
Starbucks was the first company to reply to DiNapoli. On 14 June, it reiterated its inclusive policies, showing a timeline that goes back to 1988, when it began offering full health benefits to same-sex domestic partners, according to letters seen by Reuters.
Starbucks also faces hundreds of complaints at the National Labor Relations Board, over its alleged illegal practices such as firing union supporters and shutting stores during labor campaigns. Workers at more than 300 US stores have voted to unionize since late 2021.
Starbucks Workers United said on Friday 23 June the company's flagship Seattle Roastery was kicking off the nationwide strike, dubbed "Strike with Pride".