On Friday, June 30, Starbucks workers in the Portland area joined Strike With Pride, Starbucks Workers United’s week-long nationwide strike demanding company leadership negotiates a fair contract with unionized stores and addresses ongoing reports of anti-LGBTQ policy changes. Workers at Starbucks locations around the country say management has prevented them from displaying Pride decorations, and is participating in what the union describes as union-busting tactics that disproportionately impact LGBTQ employees.
Starbucks Workers United alleges that the coffee company engages in performative allyship by “tokenizing [LGBTQIA+] workers for good press and higher profits” while simultaneously refusing to let workers put up pride decorations in dozens of Starbucks locations across the country. “In Massachusetts, some workers were told that they couldn’t put up decorations due to there not being enough ‘labor hours’ to schedule partners to decorate,” a statement from the union reads. “In Georgia, workers were told that it was a safety reason to have workers on ladders and that workers can’t decorate for Pride because it deviates from the ‘Siren Core Pattern.’”
In a statement to Eater Portland, Starbucks denied pulling any Pride merchandise from its stores, and says it has not altered its corporate policies regarding Pride Month: “We continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities including for U.S. Pride month in June, as we always have,” the statement reads in part.
Additionally, at an Oklahoma Starbucks, union members filed a National Labor Relations Board complaint over access to health care. Union members say that management “threaten[ed] employees with the loss of benefits (including the loss of gender-affirming healthcare for transgender employees) if they voted to be represented by a union.” In the statement provided to Eater Portland, a Starbucks spokesperson said “all partners enrolled in a Starbucks health plan have access to industry-leading gender-affirming care benefits regardless of organizing activity or representation status.”
In Portland, the first four Starbucks locations voted to unionize in the spring 2022; since then, more than 15 stores throughout the area have organized. However, local Starbucks employees say they have hit significant roadblocks during that process. In 2022, the NLRB found that Starbucks was “failing and refusing to bargain collectively,” in the words of the agency’s regional director, at unionized Portland and Seattle-based stores. In May, Starbucks announced plans to close the downtown Portland location, which employees said was a response to a mounting unionization push at cafes throughout the area. In a statement, a Starbucks spokesperson said the local union “has only confirmed 15 percent of the 72 bargaining sessions proposed by Starbucks for represented stores in Oregon and Washington,” and that leadership is ready to negotiate for a contract at organized stores.
On June 23, Starbucks’ flagship roastery in Seattle was the first location to kick off the wave of strikes. More than 150 Starbucks locations around the country are participating in the strike; in the Portland area, pickets will be held today at the Cedar Hills Crossing, Pioneer Courthouse Square, Northeast Grand Avenue and Northeast Lloyd Boulevard, Oregon Trail Center, and Heritage Place locations. The first pickets began at 6 a.m., and will continue into the afternoon.