Starbucks Is Accused Of Banning Pride Decorations

2023 is shaping up to be the year that LGBTQIA+ visibility and the celebration of Pride Month are under their most pointed attacks in recent memory. From Anheuser-Busch's lagging sales of Budweiser after a promotional partnership with actress and comedian Dylan Mulvaney to boycotts of brands like Build-A-Bear and LEGO, anti-LGBTQIA+ sentiment is anything but on the wane. Now come reports that certain Starbucks locations in the U.S. have banned or otherwise discouraged Pride displays. 

A press release from Starbucks Workers United (SWU) that was sent to Tasting Table alleges the company is both refusing to let workers put up decorations and other displays in support and celebration of Pride Month and actively removing those that have already been installed. SWU reports that no internal policy change has been issued regarding the display of Pride-related decorations. Rather, it postulates that this is related to Starbucks' broader anti-union maneuvers and is an effort to make employees feel unwelcome in their own workplaces. According to the statement, SWU is a largely LGBTQIA+-led organization.

In a request for comment, a Starbucks representative refuted these claims, saying, "We unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA+ community." The company further states that it has been an ally to the community for over four decades and that it is "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."

Uniformity, safety cited as reasons

SWU's press release includes several items they cite as proof of the removal or exclusion of Pride decorations at Starbucks locations. These include a video of Pride decor in a Madison, Wisconsin store being removed, a text thread from the Mid-Atlantic region that states the move is an effort towards "uniformity," and another video of an Atlanta employee who says management predicated the move on safety, as the store lacked a ladder to hang Pride flags.

Neha Cremin, a Starbucks worker from Oklahoma City, says that the move dates back even further than 2023. "At the end of last year, our store manager took down our trans pride flag. We were told that upper management wanted every Starbucks store to have an identical, homogenous look. ... We are a store of mostly LGBTQIA+ workers, near the historic gay district of Oklahoma City, with many LGBTQIA+ customers, and we can't display a Pride flag where customers might see it."

Starbucks' statement claims that the company has no evidence of "company-operated" stores banning Pride decorations but doesn't mention whether it is aware of franchise locations that have enacted a ban. To back up its position, Starbucks highlights Instagram posts showing Pride decorations on display at stores in Hawaii, Dallas-Fort Worth, and North Carolina. The statement also pointed to the company's inclusive medical policy, which was created in partnership with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, as evidence of their ongoing support of the community.