Starbucks is refuting allegations from workers that it ordered the removal rainbow-themed decorations from its US stores, stating that it “unwaveringly supports the LGBTQIA2+ community.”
The accusations were first lodged today by the Starbucks Workers United (SWU), a unionization collective comprised of Starbucks employees.
On their official Twitter, SWU claimed Starbucks was “taking a cue from Target” and had been removing all Pride-related decorations from their stores.
According to NBC, SWU cited examples including that workers in Massachusetts were being told that there weren’t enough “labor hours” for employees to spend decorating. SWU added that in Oklahoma, staff were told “it was a safety concern to block windows with flags” and cited threats directed at Target over Pride displays as a reason for the safety concern.
The news sent a shockwave across social media as many noted that Starbucks had a reputation for being a notoriously progressive company.
As early as 2013, the Seattle-born coffee chain adopted a “inclusive healthcare” policy for its American employees by partnering with non-profits dedicated to providing “gender affirming” services and healthcare.
Despite the pro-trans policy, SWU claimed Starbucks had been failing to “materially support the LGBTQ+ community.” In their Twitter thread, the collective cited an incident from last October where some workers “reported that their transgender benefit plan changed, causing them to pay out-of-pocket fees and lose access to certain providers.”
The thread, posted this afternoon, immediately prompted outrage amongst SWU “allies,” many of whom took to Twitter to condemn Starbucks for failing to “stand up” for minorities.
“If Starbucks [were] 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,” SWU said on Twitter.
SWU concluded their thread with a call to action, demanding that Starbucks negotiate a union contract that “legally locks-in our benefits, our freedom of expression, and ways to hold management accountable.”
But Starbucks is now denying the allegations lodged by the workers.
In a statement issued to media, spokesperson Andrew Trull said that the rumors they had been ordering the removal of Pride decorations were false, and that they were “concerned” about the SWU’s claims.
“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,” Trull said.
“We unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA2+ community. 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 US Pride month in June.”
The SWU has since responded to the corporate statement, providing a number of examples to substantiate their claim that Starbucks had been instructing the removal of Pride-themed decorations.
The SWU’s allegations against the coffee giant comes on the heels of continued backlash against Target for stocking merchandise many said was promoting gender ideology to minors.
Last month, Target prompted widespread condemnation after it was revealed that it had been selling “tuck-friendly ”swimwear, as well as a number of Pride products geared towards children.
As a result of the public outcry, Target, which had reportedly lost over $15 billion during the controversy, decided to “roll-back [Pride] displays” at some of its locations in hopes of salvaging its reputation.