Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Starbucks Union Accuses Chain Of Banning Pride, Head Office Denies

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: June 14, 2023
Starbucks banned Pride fearing a boycott, the union claims. Headquarters says it did not.
A file photo of the exterior of a Starbucks in Dubai. The Starbucks union claims that corporate management has banned “pride” from its stores, fearing a Target/Bud Light-style backlash. However, head office denies the union’s claims. (Image: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

A union of employees for iconic international coffee chain Starbucks accused the corporation of banning “pride” celebrations in the midst of “Pride Month” in an extended June 13 Twitter thread.

However, Starbucks corporate office denies the allegations.

Starbucks Workers United (SWU), which makes its position clear with a multicolored version of its normally Marxism-overtoned logo surrounded by the slogan “Be Gay And Organize” alleged that various locations have been disallowing “Pride decorations in-store” for the last two weeks.

“This seems to be the first year the publicly ‘pro-LGBTQ+’ company has taken this kind of stance,” the account added.

More than merely prohibiting store decorations, SWU charged that “corporate and district management” has been actively removing icons of the movement, despite them having “become an annual tradition in stores.”


The thread was modified by Twitter’s Community Notes fact checkers to cite a pair of articles by NBC and New York Post where a spokesperson for Starbucks said in a statement that the company “unwaveringly support[s]” the community represented by pride.

“There has been no change to any policy on this matter,” they said, adding that Starbucks is “deeply concerned by false information that is being spread.”

NBC added it was unable to independently confirm SWU’s allegations.

The outlet also noted that the Starbucks website features a trio of drink tumblers released on May 30 created in collaboration with a Toronto artist who states that his work “focuses on queerness and how that has inspired me.”

New York Post similarly reported that in May, the chain had released a contentious ad in the comparatively conservative and reserved country of India where a male actress identifying as a woman plays the role of a son who converted his gender to that of a woman meeting with their father and mother for reconciliation at a Starbucks location.

SWU’s Twitter account responded to the fact check affixed to their post and the statement from Starbucks headquarters, “Last time we checked, Starbucks was being prosecuted for violating labor law in over 2,000 instances, yet they still deny ANY wrong doing. Starbucks spokespeople should not be taken at their word.”

In elaborating on the story, the Post notes that SWU representatives spoke extensively with The Daily Beast, where the organization stated that employees in Oklahoma were told the ban was prophylaxis against backlash retail chain Target faced after featuring an entire section of child-focused “gender affirming care” merchandise, which some have alleged was created by a designer who practices Satanism.

The union also claimed that Massachusetts staff was told that labor hours could not be dedicated to decorating for Pride Month.

The outlet noted that workers in Wisconsin claimed on Instagram that management had taken down the paraphernalia on the basis that it was not “welcoming for everyone.”

A video posted on the union’s TikTok account appears to show workers taking down rainbow flags and window stickers.

If the corporate edict were true, it may ultimately be a business decision.

Anheuser-Busch shareholders have taken a phenomenal beating in the month of May, losing more than $11 per share amounting to over $20 billion in market capitalization following from a boycott triggered after the company ran an advertising campaign featuring Dylan Mulvaney, a man who identifies as a woman, drinking Bud Light in the bubble bath.

The boycott has had legs, with reports from May by New York Post and other outlets showing the company offering $20 discounts on a $19.88 24-pack of the formerly best-selling discount alcohol.

Some outlets, such as Business Insider, attempted to dismiss the boycott in its early stages as having “represented roughly 1% of the company’s global sales volume” in its first three weeks, based on comments made by CEO Michel Doukeris during the company’s earnings call.

The Post reported in a secondary May article that, to the contrary, sales had fallen by almost 24 percent nationally.

A June 3 article by ABC reported that salespeople for Florida-area distributors were seeing the pain in their pocketbook, with personal hits to their monthly commission being as high as a $2,000 loss.

A supervisor for one of the companies told ABC, “This has really, really killed a lot of the guys who are commission-based. That’s who it’s really hurting…There’s nothing they could’ve done — this was thrown in their faces.”

Starbucks executives may be feeling risk averse in light of the fact that company stock plummeted from a high of $115.48 to open May to a low of $96.52 following its Q2 earnings, representing a more than $16 billion loss in company value, and all without facing any formal boycotts.

Website The New Republic confirmed this threat was certainly looming when it reported, “Employees at a Maryland store were told that some people felt excluded by Pride decorations. Posts on Reddit that did not indicate location showed that other workers were also told some customers considered the Pride decor exclusionary.” 

For the SWU, the root of the conflict may be in contract negotiations as the effort to unionize stores has proven contentious with headquarters and not always supported by workers.

The union ended its Twitter thread stating, “True allyship with the LGBTQ+ community is negotiating a union contract that legally locks-in our benefits, our freedom of expression, and ways to hold management accountable.”

It also made a point of retweeting a promotional post by PJB Workers United, which replied to the original complaint thread selling stickers and t-shirts themed in flag colors with the original SWU logo and the updated SWU logo, accompanied by the slogan, “This Pride, support Rainbow Unionism, not Rainbow Capitalism!”