A union representing hundreds of Starbucks stores said this week that workers in 21 states were told by their managers not to dress up for Pride Month, the annual LGBTQ celebration, a claim the company said local leaders represented “outside” decisions that were not reflected. corporate policy.
But even in New York City neighborhoods that are almost synonymous with pride, traditional rainbow displays were more muted than in years past — if visible at all. In Manhattan, no Pride decorations can be seen at several Starbucks stores in Chelsea and Greenwich Village, including one just a block from the Stonewall Inn, a landmark of gay culture and history. A flag over the city was seen in a store in Hell’s Kitchen.
Starbucks employees in Wisconsin, Ohio and Virginia, among other states, said in interviews conducted through their union that store and district managers have either been asked to remove existing decorations such as flags or streamers, or have been told to replace them. Unlike previous years, stores will not be allowed to decorate for Pride Month.
Workers said the reasons given varied.
An employee was told that there were not enough paid hours available to work. Another was told that decoration choices needed to be standardized across regions. One fellow, as Starbucks refers to employees, was told by a manager that hanging a rainbow flag might make customers uncomfortable. Others said they were told that if they hung the Pride flag the store could be asked to show similar representation to others, including the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group. Some managers also cited security concerns.
Starbucks Workers United, which is working to unionize stores across the United States, criticized the company for failing to show support for LGBTQ workers at a time when conservative politicians are promoting legislation targeting the community. Are. The union and its members accused the company of using intimidation tactics during contract negotiations to make workers feel uncomfortable in their workplaces.
After the union criticized Starbucks on Tuesday, the company sent a note to North American corporate and retail leaders saying there is no ban on Pride decorations in stores. But several managers interviewed by The New York Times said they had not received that communication.
“When I see a big pride flag in the window I know it’s a welcoming place,” said Ian Miller, who has worked at a Starbucks in Olney, MD, for four years and is transgender. “I don’t understand why all of a sudden in the middle of June they are talking nonsense about it.”
In past years, Mr. Miller has been encouraged to decorate his store for Pride. This year their manager suggested that hanging up the Pride flag might mean that the store would have to display the Confederate flag if asked.
Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull said in an interview Wednesday that the examples described by Starbucks Workers United were “outlier versus standard.”
Mr Trull said the local store leader has discretion to decide how the store looks, in keeping with company policies, including a security rule that prohibits hanging things in windows, Which prevents the staff behind the counter from being able to see out. , He added that stores sometimes face restrictions in their leases.
Mr. Trull said Starbucks has not received any credible threats against its LGBTQ staff members or stores.
In the past, Starbucks provided some pride pins and flair for employees to wear, Trull said, but this has not been consistent. No pins were distributed this year. Pride-themed cups and glasses They are available at stores where the merchandise is sold, he said.
“You can still walk into the vast majority of Starbucks stores across the country and find our partners celebrating the LGBTQ community in a variety of ways,” Mr. Trull said. “Placing Pride flags in our stores is just one of the many ways Starbucks is supporting and standing behind the LGBTQ community.”
Mr Trull, who is gay, said he had felt “seen and valued” as an employee.
“I think it’s a little reductive to attribute LGBTQ support to the announcements Starbucks puts in its stores,” he said.
But it seemed like a very different experience was happening for some Starbucks employees across the country.
Ray Schmidt, 32, said that about six to eight weeks ago, his store manager in Strongsville, Ohio, asked workers to remove a Pride flag that had been hanging on the wall for at least a year because “it’s not inclusive to everyone.” Was” .”
Mr. Schmidt, a shift supervisor who is helping organize a union at the store, said that since then “you wouldn’t even know it’s Pride Month at Starbucks, going wild for our stores, where maybe 80 to 90 percent of the people who work there are LGBTQ”
The investigation into Pride decorations at Starbucks stores follows similar controversies at some of the country’s most prominent companies. Beer brand Bud Light has been dealing with the fallout of a social media campaign involving a transgender influencer for months. Target, one of the nation’s largest retailers, said it moved its Pride displays in some stores after workers received threats,
The backlash for inclusive marketing comes in the form of a flood of legislation attempting to roll back LGBTQ rights.
Starbucks insists it has community support for decades Supported same-sex marriage and civil rights for LGBTQ workers with workplace policies, charities, and Supreme Court briefs. In 2022, Starbucks earned a top rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which assesses LGBTQ equity in companies based on their benefits, policies and culture.
The company’s inclusive policy is one of the reasons why many people want to work there.
Meighin Martin, who has worked for Starbucks for almost two years, said, “This is the first place I’ve worked where I’ve been surrounded by the gay community.”
Workers displayed a pride flag, rainbow-colored paper chains and rainbow lights inside a Starbucks in Madison, Wis., for nearly a month. But on Sunday, a district manager visited “to make sure everything was up to standard,” said Matt Cartwright, a shift supervisor at the store.
“How is it fair for our trans or queer partners to say, ‘Your flag — a way to show that we respect and accept you — can be offensive to someone who wants to buy coffee?’ Mr. Cartwright said.
Jordan Holman Contributed reporting.