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The New York Times reports that Starbucks plans to "issue 'clearer' guidelines on permissible store decorations after the union that represents thousands of its workers said some employees were prohibited by management from putting up decorations for Pride Month.

"Sara Trilling, the North America president for Starbucks, said in a memo to employees that the company’s policy on visual displays had not changed but that more specific directions were coming. She also reiterated the company’s support of the L.G.B.T.Q. community, saying, 'No one can take away our legacy and our continued commitment to being a place where we all belong'."

The Times writes that "the response from Starbucks came after workers at more than 150 stores went on strike over the course of a week starting Friday to protest the company’s decorations policy, its treatment of L.G.B.T.Q. workers and unfair labor practices generally."  The strike has closed only about 12 stores in the US.

"Starbucks Workers United said on Monday that the strike would go on unless the company agreed to come to the bargaining table," the Times writes, and Starbucks "filed two charges with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the union of starting 'a smear campaign' against it by misrepresenting the company’s stances on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, including its benefits policy on gender-affirming care."

KC's View:

Glad Starbucks is clarifying its policies for Pride decor.  pride month ends the day after tomorrow.  (Maybe they should make sure that they have their act together for June 2024.)

This is, of course, is all part of a broader cultural, business and political puzzle.  Starbucks is doing battle with organized labor in numerous markets, trying to quell a labor movement while walking the line between what is legal and what is not.  And, the whole issue of Pride-related marketing has become more problematic as certain quarters have decided to deride it as "woke" and somehow at odds with traditional values.

The bad news is that these battles are only going to persist and become more rancorous.  What companies have to be clear about is what their values are and what their goals are  - if Starbucks indeed has a "continued commitment to being a place where we all belong," then it has to embrace those values and make sure that they are reflected throughout the company.  And if people - whether they are employees or customers - have a problem with that, then gently, respectfully suggest that they buy their coffee elsewhere.

It seems to me that Starbucks' real problem here is a lack of clarity and the fact that sometimes the folks at headquarters appear to be out of touch with what is happening in the stores.  This may be inevitable when you get as big as Starbucks, but fixing this problem has to be a high priority.  Maybe they need to hire ambassadors at the division level whose only job is to be a conduit between the stores and leadership - no operational responsibilities to speak off, but with a portfolio that requires that attention is paid to their recommendations.