On Monday, the union that officially represents Starbucks employees announced that a planned strike meant to align with “pride month” had successfully closed at least 21 stores across the country.
As ABC News reports, the strike by Starbucks Workers United (SWU) is planned to continue throughout this week and may disrupt as many as 150 locations. Among the stores closed over the weekend was the company’s flagship location in Seattle.
The company released its own assessment claiming that its operations were hardly affected by the strikes; while at least 120 stores participated in the strikes on Monday, the company said that only 13 actually closed. In some of these cases, the drive-thrus remained open while the interiors were closed.
The strikes started after reports claimed that several Starbucks locations had banned the display of rainbow flags and other symbols of LGBTQ “pride.” The union has also claimed, without evidence, that officials with the company have threatened union members’ health benefits, including so-called “sex change” procedures for employees who believe themselves to be “transgender.”
Starbucks pushed back on these claims, insisting that its policy towards pride displays has not changed. The company added transgender surgeries and other treatments to its company health plan in 2013.
“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,” said CEO Laxman Narasimhan in an open letter to employees on Friday. “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.”
The recent strikes represent the latest clash between Starbucks and its unionized employees, as the company has been opposed to unionization efforts. Since 2021, 319 of Starbucks’ 9,265 U.S. locations have voted to unionize, while 76 stores have voted against unionization.