Starbucks Files NLRB Complaint Against Union Over Pride Decoration

Starbucks fired back on Monday at the union, which represents baristas in hundreds of its stores, and filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board over allegations by Starbucks Workers United that dozens of its stores were not allowed to display Pride Month decorations.

The charges came after workers at some Starbucks locations began picketing on Friday in response to the allegations. More than 150 stores across the country have agreed to join the strikes, representing nearly 3,500 workers, according to Workers United. Starbucks has more than 9,000 company-owned coffee shops in the United States

The union has reported incidents in at least 22 states where managers have told baristas they can’t decorate for Pride month in June, or where Pride flags have been taken down. The company said it hasn’t changed its policy on decorations.

In Monday’s NLRB complaint related to the union’s allegations, Starbucks said the “union and its representatives engaged in a campaign of slander, including intentional misrepresentations against Starbucks affiliates.”

“The union’s violations have created tensions and divisions in the workplace, leading to strikes and other business disruptions at Starbucks stores,” Starbucks said in the filing. “The union’s unlawful campaign includes, among other things, willful misrepresentations, including maliciously and recklessly false statements about Starbucks’ longstanding support of Pride Month and the decorations in its stores. The union knowingly and erroneously stated that Starbucks has banned all Pride decorations from its stores.” Stores.”

In a second filing with the NLRB, responding to the union’s portrayal of benefits for LGBTQ+ workers, the coffee giant said, “Starbucks continues to provide industry-leading gender-focused care services to its partners. The union knowingly and erroneously stated that Starbucks has changed the scope of services for its LGBTQIA2+ partners.”

The union said it had filed its own lawsuit in response to allegations that shops were banned from decorating. It said some of the strikes were related to these allegations and claimed Starbucks was stuck in collective bargaining.

Workers United expressed confidence that Starbucks’ charges would be dismissed, calling them a “public relations stunt intended to distract from Starbucks’ own actions.”

“Every single charge that Starbucks has filed against our union has been dismissed by the NLRB for lack of merit. … Pay attention to what Starbucks does, not what it says,” the union said in a statement.

“While Starbucks is attacking the union that represents its own workers, it has now changed its policies in response to workers’ actions. If Starbucks truly wants to be an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community, they will actually listen to their queer workers by coming to the negotiating table to negotiate in good faith,” added Starbucks Workers United.

Starbucks, in turn, claims Workers United has responded to only a quarter of the more than 450 rounds of negotiations Starbucks has proposed so far for individual stores across the country and says it is committed to moving forward with negotiations toward an initial contract.

Starbucks took additional steps Monday to let employees know its in-store decorating policies have not changed. Managers receive security guidelines and can make decisions within this framework.

Starbucks says it has encouraged and will continue to encourage its stores to celebrate the heritage months with partners including Pride.

“I would like to reiterate that none of our policies have changed regarding our inclusive store environments, our corporate culture and the benefits we offer our partners. To underscore this even further, we intend to issue clearer, centralized guidelines.” and leveraging resources such as the Period Planning Kit (PPK) and Siren’s Eye for in-store visuals and decorations that continue to represent inclusivity and our brand.” said Sara Trilling, executive vice president of Starbucks North America, in a message sent to partners on Monday. “No one can take away our heritage and our ongoing commitment to be a place where we all belong.”

“Throughout our journey, we’ve heard from our partners that they like to be creative in how we present our stores and that they consider visual creativity in stores to be part of who we are and part of our culture,” said Trilling. “At the same time, we’ve heard through our partner channels that there is a need for clarity and consistency in current visual and decoration guidelines.”

The conflict over Pride decorations at Starbucks stores comes as states across the country have enacted a slew of laws targeting LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender Americans. Conservative consumers boycotted transgender inclusion or marketing by brands like Bud Light and Target.

The Starbucks union’s allegations suggest the backlash has reached Starbucks, which has long had a reputation as a liberal bastion in American business and touted its health benefits for LGBTQ+ workers.

– CNBC’s Amelia Lucas contributed to this report. Starbucks Files NLRB Complaint Against Union Over Pride Decoration

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