Thousands of Starbucks workers set to strike over ‘treatment of queer and trans staff’

Starbucks strike

Thousands of Starbucks workers are set to go on strike over the next week amid controversy surrounding the coffee chain’s Pride decorations. 

On 13 June, US Starbucks denied claims from Starbucks Workers United that the company had U-turned on its previous support of Pride Month by ordering staff to remove Pride displays from stores.

Despite the chain stating that it was still “unwaveringly” supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, the worker-led unionising collective has gone ahead with strike action. 

Starbucks Workers United confirmed on Friday (23 June) that more than 150 stores and 3,500 workers “will be on strike over the course of the next week” due to the company’s “treatment of queer and trans workers”.

It clarified on Twitter that its ‘Strike with Pride’ action is an “unfair labor practice strike” over the coffee giant’s “refusal to bargain over changes in pride decoration policies in addition to their illegal union-busting campaign impacting queer workers”. 

A Starbucks spokesperson told PinkNews: “Workers United continues to spread false information about our benefits, policies and negotiation efforts – a tactic used to seemingly divide our partners and deflect from their failure to respond to bargaining sessions for more than 200 stores.

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“We apologise to our customers who may experience an inconvenience at these locations and encourage customers to find any of our more than 9,000 stores open nearby using our store locator available online or through the Starbucks mobile app.” 

In a later tweet, Starbucks Workers United also highlighted that striking staff are fighting for consistent hours, health and safety and protection from discrimination, among other workers’ rights demands.

Seattle Roastery, which is leading the nationwide strike, published a letter on Thursday (22 June) in protest against what it calls the company’s “unfair labor practices”. 

The letter states: “We are taking collective action in response to the company’s unlawful decision to unilaterally alter or terminate store Pride decoration policies without negotiating with our union. 

“We are also striking over numerous other unfair labor practices, including but not limited to the company’s refusal to negotiate over a first labor contract.”

Several other coffee shops have followed in the lead of Seattle Roastery, with a Starbucks café in Nebraska and four stores in Illinois also taking strike action.

On Saturday (24 June), independent journalist Erin Reed tweeted a picture of herself and her fiancée, Montana’s trailblazing trans representative Zooey Zephyr, “standing in solidarity” with Starbucks Workers United and holding the group’s t-shirts.

In 2022, Starbucks was accused of threatening to take away gender-affirming healthcare coverage for trans staff as part of its ongoing row with Starbucks Workers United, a charge the coffee conglomerate denied.