What to Know About the Starbucks Pride Month Strike

Pride Month is meant to be a celebration, a commemoration, and a call to action — a time to uplift the LGBT+ community, look back on important milestones, and push for greater equality and visibility.

But this year, several high-profile brands, including Target, have faced tremendous amounts of homophobic and transphobic backlash to their participation in Pride Month. Their responses — and that of other corporations that scaled back on Pride participation — have spotlighted the conversation around the increasing polarization of Pride Month.

One of the companies at the center of that conversation is Starbucks. In mid-June, the union organizing US Starbucks stores, called Starbucks Workers United, alleged that store managers had been removing Pride displays out of safety concerns, according to Associated Press.

Starbucks — which has a long history of outwardly supporting LGBTQ+ rights issues — denied the claims and stated that their support of LGBTQ+ communities was "unwavering." But the union continued to claim that "the company's tone [around Pride] has changed this year," reports AP.

And in response, Starbucks workers held strikes on June 25. AP later reported that the strikes resulted in 21 Starbucks locations closing over the weekend. The strikes are expected to continue this week. On June 26, Starbucks stated that 120 stores were involved in strikes, and 13 were fully closed as a result, AP states.

Spokespeople for Starbucks have continued to push back on claims that they changed their policies about Pride decorations this year. Reuters reports that on June 25, a company spokesperson said, "It would be inaccurate to report that Starbucks stores are banning any decorations as there has been no change to company policy on this matter . . . We remain deeply concerned by false information being spread about our inclusive store environments, our company culture and the benefits we offer our partners."

But the strikes aren't just in response to Starbucks's alleged move to remove Pride displays. Reuters states that Starbucks Workers United also hopes to push for fair labor contracts for improved pay and benefits.

Setting aside Starbucks specifically, increasing attention is being paid to how and when brands participate in Pride — and how these brands react when their participation is met with anti-LGBT+ violence. This has reignited the conversation around rainbow capitalism, which is when corporations superficially support queer communities in an attempt to profit off Pride.

As Laur Freymiller wrote for POPSUGAR, "Pride exists outside the constraints of capitalism. Our existence and acceptance isn't relegated to a single month of parades and rainbow tumblers. Pride is an ongoing process of building community."

While there are companies out there that genuinely support LGBT+ communities, corporations "participating" in Pride with the goal of profit or social capital isn't really what Pride is about — and it never was.