Starbucks denies banning LGBTQ+ Pride decorations in stores

A set of green Starbucks brand cups with red, white, and blue straws in a pile together.

Starbucks has refuted claims by a workers’ group that it ordered staff to remove Pride displays from stores.

The coffee chain denied accusations on Tuesday (13 June), made by Starbucks Workers United, which said it had U-turned on its previous displays of LGBTQ+ solidarity.

“For the past two weeks, Starbucks workers have taken to social media to report that the company is no longer allowing Pride decorations in-store. This seems to be the first year the publicly ‘pro-LGBTQ+’ company has taken this kind of stance,” the union said in a statement.

“If Starbucks was a true ally, they would stand up for us, especially during a time when LGBTQ+ people are under attack. A company that cares wouldn’t turn their back on the LGBTQ+ community to protect their already astronomically high profits.”

Union workers protest unfair labour laws and union busting during a labor day march.
Tensions between Starbucks and the union are rising. (Getty)

Pro-union social media accounts have shared videos of what they claim to be workers taking down Pride flags inside stores, while right-wing commentators have repeated the claims, taking them as a victory.

However, a statement from Starbucks provided to PinkNews said that no change to corporate policy had taken place and that it was still “unwaveringly” supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, adding that it encourages store leaders to “celebrate with their communities.”

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“For Starbucks, US Pride Month in June is just one of the moments we support and celebrate our LGBTQIA2+ partners and the community, and it’s our own partners who inform the commitments and actions we have continued to take for more than four decades.

“We’re deeply concerned by false information that is being spread, especially as it relates to our inclusive store environments, our company culture and the benefits we offer our partners,” it continued.

“Starbucks has a history that includes more than four decades of recognising and celebrating our diverse partners and customers – including year-round support for the LGBTQIA2+ community.”

It comes amid a broad backlash to LGBTQ+ rights in America and beyond, with company’s facing scrutiny over their support for the community.

Bud Light was recently hit with right-wing outrage over a social media collaboration with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Its response to the backlash earned it further criticism from the LGBTQ+ community, with the company accused of failing to protect Mulvaney.

Target has also been criticised for pulling certain items from an LGBTQ+ Pride Month collection after right-wing opposition.

More than 300 Starbucks locations are currently pressing for a higher minimum wage to help tackle the cost of living crisis, as well as “fair scheduling procedures” and guaranteed minimum hours for workers.

In March, former Starbucks chief executive officer, Howard Schultz, clashed with senator Bernie Sanders at a committee hearing on the coffee company’s alleged union-busting practices.

Sanders, a former presidential hopeful, accused the billionaire of waging “the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country,” while accusing senior employees of a “willingness” to break the law.

In response, Schultz said he was confident that Starbucks had not broken the law and that officials “want to treat everyone with respect and dignity.”

He added: “However, I have the right, and the company has the right, to have a preference, and our preference is to maintain the direct relationship we’ve had with our employees.”