Starbucks Workers United will begin a weeklong walkout of more than 3,000 workers Friday, starting at the company’s flagship store in Seattle. The union alleges that the Bright Decoration episodes are just the latest instances of retaliation against workers, including denying workers access to benefits and firing an employee.
In a statement to The Washington Post, Starbucks spokeswoman Rachel Wall accused the union of spreading misinformation and called the strike a “tactic to divide our partners.”
“We apologize to our customers who are experiencing inconvenience at these locations,” he added.
Last week, the union accused regional Starbucks leaders and store managers of preventing workers from displaying Pride flags and other decorations honoring LGBTQ+ rights. The organization cited that they were prohibited or limited in placing decorations, and texts and memos appeared showing managers that there were regional guidelines for stores to adhere to a more “consistent experience.” The Post could not independently verify the communications.
The union says it does not allege such actions are the result of “corporate top-down national policy,” but said in a statement to The Post that it “finds it hard to believe it was unaware of the corporate actions.” The cases where it is said to have happened were very widespread.
Lexi Rizzo struggled to keep her Starbucks together.
Starbucks has vehemently denied the allegations, saying for decades it has supported LGBTQ+ workers through policies such as “gender transition guidelines” and gender reassignment surgery, and the company’s health benefits. Also, Wall said the company has long had a policy of “recognizing partner celebrations and various traditional months.”
Asked if store managers and regional leaders can operate independently of corporate direction, Wall responded: “In terms of in-store displays, partners and store leadership continue to pursue ways to truly celebrate year-round with their various communities within our safety standards. , Identity Policies and Dress Code.”
“All partner concerns raised on this matter are taken seriously and should be addressed for leadership review,” he added in an email.
Starbucks and unionized workers are locked in a battle — one that forced company founder and former CEO Howard Schultz to testify before a congressional committee in March about his company’s alleged union busting. Schultz denied involvement in decisions to fire or discipline union organizers, while saying he was not involved in closing unionized stores.
The testimony came weeks after a federal administrative law judge found that Starbucks had committed “egregious and widespread” violations of federal labor law through its efforts to shut down union campaigns.