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Starbucks union plans largest strike yet over Pride decorations



Dive Brief:

  • Starbucks Workers United members began striking at the Seattle Starbucks Reserve Roastery on Thursday night following the removal or preemption of Pride decor at stores earlier this month, the union wrote in an email to Restaurant Dive. 
  • The strike will be the largest in the union’s campaign so far, SBWU said. Over 3,000 workers at more than 150 stores pledged to strike, and another 30 locations are voting on strike authorizations. 
  • Though this strike was triggered by disputes between workers and management over Pride decorations, the purpose of the demonstration is to protest unfair labor practices. The union describes these issues as illegal union busting and Starbucks’ refusal to negotiate in good faith.

Dive Insight:

Over one-third (36%) of Starbucks baristas identify as members of the LGBTQ community, per the coffee chain’s 2022 Global Environmental and Social Impact Report. LGBTQ Pride decorations have been a point of contention for Starbucks in the past — last summer, conflicts between a manager and unionized workers over the manager’s decision to remove Pride decorations triggered a 64-day strike at a Boston Starbucks. The Boston strike is the longest single strike of the campaign so far. 

Now, the union will stage a 24-hour picket to block deliveries to the Seattle Starbucks Reserve Roastery that began striking on Thursday, SBWU confirmed. The union says that Starbucks’ alleged union busting has “significantly impacted Starbucks’ LGBTQIA+ workforce.”

Last week, as part of the Twitter thread claiming Starbucks had banned Pride decor, the union also alleged the company changed some of its gender-affirming care benefits. In a conversation for previous Pride coverage, a Starbucks spokesperson told Restaurant Dive changes to the cost of gender-affirming care that Workers United has alleged were caused by the company were due to price changes imposed by healthcare providers.

Starbucks said it was aware of planned strikes and demonstrations, and would attempt to staff stores impacted by the strike to maintain operations. The company called the union’s accusations around Pride decor false and misleading and said it supports LGBTQ Pride.

SBWU last week alleged Starbucks had banned pride decorations at some stores. Communications between managers and workers showed regional leaders had removed or prevented workers from putting up Pride decorations. Starbucks denied the union’s claim that this was a national policy decision, stating any removals were due either to safety issues related to the placement of displays, or resulted from the broad discretion given to local and regional managers over store decor. 

The union’s previous strikes included actions at 115 stores to coincide with the start of CEO Laxman Narasimhan’s tenure in March, and strikes at 110 or more stores last November to coincide with Red Cup day, the day when Starbucks’ holiday cups become available for sale. 

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