Bud Light has faced ongoing backlash from LGBT lobby groups in its damned if you do, damned if you don't saga of its own making. Other major brands, Target being a foremost example, have also noticeably softened or even removed their "Pride Month" campaigns, fearing that boycott of their own products could begin trending, while still trying at least token appeasement of the LGBT lobby by keeping up minimal "Pride" appearances, often through local events.
Starbucks has also of late come under the spotlight of controversy after reports that district managers have increasingly banned or removed Pride decor in various locations across the country, resulting in a backlash from its own workers.
Corporate leadership says the company is firmly pro-LGBT, but the union Starbucks Workers United recently complained on Twitter, "Taking a cue from Target, who bowed to anti-LGBTQ+ pressure and removed pride merchandise, corporate and district management are taking down the pride decorations that have become an annual tradition in stores."
The group further documented that by mid-June, stores in over 21 states had place a series of bans on Pride month decorations. Corporate Starbucks has tried to pushback against the claims, however:
Starbucks told Fast Company that there is no ban on Pride decorations. "We unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA2+ community," a representative said, calling claims to the contrary “false information” and then clarifying: "There has been no change to any policy on this matter, and we continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities including for U.S. Pride month in June."
Some observers have said a handful of videos on social media showing Pride decor being taken down have been exaggerated and misinterpreted.
But continued denials of a crackdown on decorations from corporate leadership have not convinced employees. The workers union announced Friday that it plans to strike over the course of the next week, starting today, with more than 3,500 Starbucks stores at over 150 stores expected to take part.
The statement said the Seattle Roastery is leading the strike over the company’s "unlawful decision to unilaterally alter or terminate store Pride decoration policies without negotiating with our union," along with alleged unfair labor practices.
STRIKE WITH PRIDE! Seattle Roastery leads nationwide Starbucks strike over Starbucks’ hypocritical treatment of LGBTQIA+ workers. Over 150+ stores and 3,500 workers will be on strike over the course of the next week.— Starbucks Workers United (@SBWorkersUnited) June 23, 2023
"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," it said.
The company's corporate HQ has called these allegations lies, pushing back in the following statement while apologizing to customers for any inconvenience:
"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," Starbucks said.
Starbucks shares steadily declined through the morning in the wake of the union statement, losing nearly 3%. The strikes are expected to begin Friday, with more employees likely to join through next week.