Starbucks is planning ‘clearer’ guidance around Pride decor after leaked messages showed managers’ confusion

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  • Starbucks is issuing “clearer” guidance on decorating its stores for heritage months.
  • Employees previously told Insider that they received conflicting information about displaying Pride flags.
  • The new guidance comes as staffers are on strike over Starbucks’ treatment of its workers.

Starbucks is planning on issuing “clearer” guidelines for visual displays in its stores after some of its workers went on strike.

In a memo to employees obtained by Bloomberg, Starbucks North America President Sara Trilling said that the company has “heard through our partner channels that there is a need for clarity and consistency on current guidelines around visual displays and decorations” and demand for “visual creativity” as part of those displays. 

As a result, Starbucks plans to issue “clearer centralized guidelines” on how to decorate stores for heritage months such as Pride, according to a version of the memo posted on the company’s website. Neither the post nor a Starbucks spokesperson clarified exactly what the guidelines would say.

A spokesperson for Starbucks Workers United said that the chain had not informed the union about the clarified guidelines. Since Friday, union members at about 150 stores representing 3,500 workers have been on strike over the Pride guidelines and Starbucks’ approach to bargaining contracts with employees. Striking workers also shut down Starbucks’ Roastery store in Seattle on Friday.

The strike is continuing since the coffee chain has not yet bargained with workers over a variety of issues, including providing consistent working hours and intimidation tactics from management, according to Workers United.

“While we are glad Starbucks is finally reconsidering its position on pride decorations, Starbucks continues to ignore that they are legally required to bargain with union workers — that’s the power of a union,” the spokesperson said.

“If Starbucks truly wants to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, they will actually listen to their queer workers by coming to the bargaining table to negotiate in good faith,” the spokesperson added.

Starbucks employees say they previously received unclear guidance 

Starbucks workers previously told Insider that they received conflicting guidance on whether Pride-themed decorations, such as rainbow-colored flags, could be displayed in the chain’s stores. 

“I think with charged topics, it would be helpful to have a company-wide direction that leads us with clarity,” one store manager wrote on an internal Workplace message board. 

The latest push by employees to organize unions at Starbucks started in 2021, when a store in Buffalo, New York, voted to form a union. Since then, about 8,000 workers in 333 Starbucks stores have opted to unionize, though no store has won a contract yet, according to Workers United. 

National Labor Relations Board judges have also found that Starbucks has violated labor law by slashing hours, firing workers, and intimidating employees with other methods, Bloomberg Law reported in early June.

Over the last two months, Starbucks has filed charges of its own against Workers United, claiming that the union has not bargained in good faith. It also accused Workers United of spreading misinformation about Starbucks’ treatment of LGBTQ+ workers. The NLRB has not yet issued a decision on the claims.

The strike and Starbucks’ reaction come after Target pulled Pride-related merchandise from its store shelves in May. CEO Brian Cornell said in a memo to workers that Target made the decision out of concern for LGBTQ+ employees’ safety. 

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