In cities across the United States, Starbucks employees have staged protests against what they perceive as discriminatory treatment towards LGBTQIA+ workers. The strikes, organized by the Starbucks Workers United Union, began in Seattle and have now spread to over 150 stores. Approximately 3,500 employees plan to join the strikes in the coming week.
The union’s main demand is for Starbucks to engage in fair contract negotiations with its unionized stores and put an end to what they consider an illegal campaign to suppress the formation of unions. The union specifically alleges that LGBTQIA+ workers at Starbucks are disproportionately targeted by these tactics. They claim that the company uses intimidation techniques, such as threats to reduce work hours and healthcare benefits, to suppress the rights of queer and transgender employees.
Additionally, the union is advocating for more inclusive workspaces. They are demanding that all Starbucks cafés have gender-neutral bathrooms, safer environments for employees, and effective methods for addressing security concerns. The union also points out that many Starbucks employees fail to receive the guaranteed minimum of 20 hours of work per week, which is necessary to access healthcare benefits.
Starbucks Corporation has responded to these allegations by issuing a statement refuting the claims and reaffirming their commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community. Both the CEO, Laxman Narasimhan, and the North American President, Sara Trilling, have stated that there have been no changes to company policies regarding inclusivity, company culture, and employee benefits.
These strikes were sparked by a Twitter post from the union on June 13, which accused Starbucks of banning Pride decorations and catering to anti-LGBTQ+ pressure. The union also highlighted changes to Starbucks’ transgender benefit plan, which allegedly resulted in employees having to pay out-of-pocket expenses and losing access to certain providers.
The Starbucks Workers United union ended their statement by emphasizing the importance of negotiating a union contract that safeguards the benefits, freedom of expression, and managerial accountability for LGBTQ+ workers. According to the union, the company’s actions are not aligned with its public support of the LGBTQ+ community and appear to prioritize profits over employees’ rights. Starbucks Corporation has not yet provided a detailed response to these specific allegations.