Champine: Starbucks Must Do Better for the Queer Community


Cecilia Acosta

(Design by Cecilia Acosta | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Morgan Champine, Assistant Opinion Editor


Starbucks Workers United, the union representing the 150 stores on strike, issued a statement saying that many Starbucks locations have been banning pride decor from their stores or telling their partners to remove it.

Starbucks denied this and released a statement in return, denying media accusations. In multiple statements on One.Starbucks, the information hub for employees and customers, Starbucks has come down hard on SWU. They’ve stated SWU is “knowingly and recklessly spreading false information” and called the strikes a “smear campaign.” But although one statement was titled “Starbucks will always protect your right to be who you are,” it never once mentioned pride.

While what SWU is claiming may not be true, Starbucks’ handling of the situation leaves something to be desired.

Starbucks and Pride

The timing of this situation couldn’t be worse. It closely follows the recent removal of items from Target’s Pride collection, as well as an explosive year for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. To protest this, a Starbucks located in Bountiful went on strike on June 24, joining many other stores across the nation. Georgia Hatton, an employee at the location, stated she wanted to make Starbucks a “better place for everyone.”

Starbucks employees should be allowed to keep pride decorations up all year long. A commitment to celebrating pride throughout the year shows a company is devoted to its queer employees and queer customers. In a time of such contention between the LGBTQ+ community and conservatives, a strong stance for the queer community is necessary.

Starbucks Workers United

Starbucks has issued Unfair Labor Practice charges against Starbucks Workers United. In multiple articles, it uses aggressive and accusatory language when discussing unions and strikes. This portrays unions as unreasonable and dismissible. The way Starbucks is reacting to SWU will inform the way the world reacts to the company. SWU may have been leveling false accusations, but that doesn’t mean Starbucks should respond so aggressively and dismissively, specifically in its language. It does nothing but inflame the already tense situation.

Another article from One.Starbucks included multiple photos of the company celebrating pride, as well as a timeline list of everything Starbucks has done to support the queer community. This article reads as a bragging statement. Starbucks is implying that because of how much it’s done for the queer community, it cannot be criticized in the slightest. This may not be the intention of the article, but this is how it comes off. Starbucks needs to be more careful with its language and think more critically about the way it’s presenting itself.


A Utah Starbucks employee, who chose to remain anonymous in fear of losing their job, said, “It’s important to have a show of support for the population that they’re profiting off of.” For Starbucks to earn the support of its queer customers, it must deserve it. The company cannot expect to only support queer people when taking money from them.

“Over the years, [Starbucks] has built a reputation as an accepting, progressive, liberal company. It feels like they are profiting off of a vulnerable community, but now there is a refusal to show support,” the employee said.

The employee also discussed how the pride debacle is only one of the issues the company is currently facing and only one issue the union is fighting back against. They suggested the main solution to all these issues is communication.

“I believe that to come to an amicable solution, we need communication. It seems to me there hasn’t been a whole lot of communication between the corporation and the union,” they said. “They’re just blaming each other.”

Starbucks and SWU need even ground where they can meet each other. They need to compromise, stop smear language and find solutions, for the good of the company and the consumers.

The truth of the matter is hard to say. The answer to whether Starbucks or SWU is telling the truth will come in time. It seems like it may be a mix of the two. However, the way Starbucks is addressing this issue feels very defensive. This defensiveness makes people suspicious. Suspicion informs opinions.

Starbucks workers deserve the right to unionize. They deserve the right to criticize their company without fear of losing their jobs. Everyone deserves freedom of speech, and the ability to speak openly about issues is necessary for growth. Starbucks may not be telling their employees to remove pride decorations from their stores. However, they are addressing the media’s and union’s responses to the issue far too aggressively and defensively. A good track record with the queer community means nothing without continued commitment.

With every cup, with every conversation and with every community, Starbucks should nurture its relationship with the queer community. They must ensure they’re doing everything in their power to remain an accredited and safe company for queer people.


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