Starbucks has ordered its stores to remove Pride Month-themed decorations, prompting concern among progressive activists that a conservative-led retail boycott is influencing corporate decision-making.
The coffee chain has typically presented itself as a pro-LGBTQ issues corporation, marking the annual celebration of gay and queer people with decorations and merchandise.
Starbucks Workers United, the union representing company workers, denounced the decoration removal on Twitter, stating the company is “taking a cue from Target, who bowed to anti-LGBTQ+ pressure and removed pride merchandise.”
BREAKING: In the middle of Pride Month, Starbucks BANS Pride decorations in stores across the United States.
— Starbucks Workers United (@SBWorkersUnited) June 13, 2023
“In union stores, where Starbucks claims they are unable to make ‘unilateral changes’ without bargaining, the company took down Pride decorations and flags anyway – ignoring their own anti-union talking point,” the union reported. “Starbucks is powered by many queer workers, but management has failed to materially support the LGBTQ+ community.”
“If Starbucks was a true ally, they would stand up for us, especially during a time when LGBTQ+ people are under attack,” said Starbucks Workers United. “A company that cares wouldn’t turn their back on the LGBTQ+ community to protect their already astronomically high profits.”
Over 325 stores make up the Starbucks Workers Union.
Target has lost almost $13 billion after backlash over its gender-neutral pride merchandise for both children and adults who identify as transgender. Images of the products prompted conservatives to boycott the retail behemoth.
Starbucks’ relationship with the LGBTQ community was already under strain. Although the company did mark Pride Month with new cups designed by artist Tim Singleton, the company has been accused of using its influence to keep unionization efforts out of Seattle Pride’s Pride Guide. The Starbucks Workers Union has accused the company of threatening transgender-identifying employees by saying they may lose health benefits, including access to gender-identity-related medical intervention, if they elect to join a union. Starbucks has offered to cover the cost of gender-expression-related genital surgeries for its employees since 2012 and other related medical procedures like breast reduction and hair transplants in 2018.
“In October, some trans Starbucks workers found that their health benefit plan had changed, forcing them to pay out of pocket for certain treatments and causing them to lose access to certain providers,” reported The New Republic.
“It would be understandable for Starbucks to suddenly grow wary of overt Pride displays, considering how bad the right-wing rage has become,” the outlet added. “Target stores in five different states received bomb threats over the weekend and had to be evacuated. But there had been no such fury directed at Starbucks.”
Online, conservatives celebrated the news that Starbucks would no longer keep up Pride decorations as an indication of the success of corporate boycotts.
“Woke corporations are beginning to realize that Americans are sick of having the rainbow flag nonsense shoved in their faces,” tweeted Michael Seifert, the CEO of PublicSq. “Keep up the pressure.”
“Starbucks has banned Pride decorations in its stores halfway through Pride Month, the company’s workers union has revealed. Leftwing Trans activists claim this means Starbucks is ‘caving,’” tweeted TurningPoint USA founder Charlie Kirk. “Good!”
“Based on the incredible backtrack we’re seeing…maybe corporations and the federal government backing a giant sex cult wasn’t the best choice,” tweeted reporter Savannah Hernandez.
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