The union organizing Starbucks workers said Monday that a strike timed to Pride month closed 21 stores over the weekend, including the company’s flagship Reserve Roastery in Seattle.
The strike will continue through this week and is expected disrupt operations at more than 150 stores, Starbucks Workers United said. The Seattle Roastery was closed all day Friday and was open for just five hours on Sunday instead of its usual 15, the union said.
Starbucks said the impact on its operations has been limited. On Monday, 120 stores were participating in the strike but only 13 of those were fully closed, the company said. In some cases, drive-thrus have remained open but cafes have closed, the company said.
Workers are protesting reports that some Starbucks stores banned LGBTQ+ Pride displays this year after backlash against companies like Target, where angry customers tipped over Pride displays and confronted workers. The union also says Starbucks officials have warned workers that unionizing could threaten their health benefits, including gender affirming care for transgender workers.
But Starbucks insists there has been no change of corporate policy around Pride displays or employee benefits. Starbucks extended full health care to same-sex partners in 1988 and added coverage for gender reassignment surgery in 2013.
In a letter to employees posted Friday on Starbucks’ website, CEO Laxman Narasimhan noted that a Pride flag is currently flying over the company’s Seattle headquarters, just as it has in past years.
“We want to be crystal clear: Starbucks has been and will continue to be at the forefront of supporting the LGBTQIA2+ community, and we will not waver in that commitment,” Narasimhan said. “As such, we strongly disapprove of any person or group, seeking to use our partners’ cultural and heritage celebrations to create harm or flagrantly advance misinformation for self-interested goals.”
At least 319 of Starbucks' 9,265 company-operated U.S. stores have voted to unionize since late 2021, while 76 stores have voted against unionizing, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Workers are seeking guaranteed minimum hours, gender-neutral store bathrooms and safety improvements, among other things.
Starbucks doesn’t support unionization, and the effort has been contentious. Earlier this month, the company agreed to settle an NLRB complaint that it improperly blocked unionized employees from working shifts at University of Washington football games. The company agreed to back pay for 10 workers and also said it would inform current employees in the Seattle area that it won’t interfere with their right to organize.
Workers went on strike twice late last year and again in March ahead of the company’s annual meeting. But the strikes don't appear to be impacting customer demand. Starbucks' U.S. same-store sales were up 12% in the quarter ending April 2.
Starbucks shares were flat in midday trading Monday.