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Starbucks workers at San Francisco’s Castro location strike over Pride displays, contract

Workers at the Castro District Starbucks are on strike on Sunday. | Alex Mullaney/The Standard.

Workers at a Starbucks in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood are on strike during Sunday’s Pride festivities, closing the store to stand in solidarity with LGBTQIA+ Starbucks employees across the country who they say have been mistreated by the company.

The employees allege that the company has engaged in union-busting tactics and claim they've been barred from adorning certain stores with Pride decorations at a time when many states are attempting to pass anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, a press release from the Starbucks Workers United organization stated.

Workers at the 18th Street location said the company has merely tokenized its LGBTQIA+ workers for good press and higher profits.

“This Starbucks is quite literally a prominent symbol of the LGBTQIA+ community,” union member and organizer Greg Zajac said Sunday morning.

Starbucks argued it was not banning Pride displays since rainbow-colored cups would be on sale, Zajac added.

The store has about 18 employees, and Sunday was expected to be one of the busiest days of the year, according to Zajac.

Workers prepare to strike at San Francisco's Castro District Starbucks on Sunday. | Alex Mullaney/The Standard

"Workers United continues to spread false information about our benefits, policies and negotiation efforts—a tactic used to seemingly divide our partners and deflect from their failure to respond to bargaining sessions for more than 200 stores," a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement.

In a June 13 memo distributed to employees, Senior Vice President Mark Brown said the company is not "banning" Pride displays.

"We're deeply concerned by false information that is being spread, especially as it relates to our inclusive store environments, our company culture and the benefits we offer our partners," Brown wrote.

The coffee giant is currently embroiled in a federal complaint from the National Labor Relations Board, an agency that enforces labor law, that alleges the company has refused to bargain with workers at many of its recently unionized cafes.

The federal oversight body filed a complaint in October at the Castro Starbucks location, known to some as “BearBucks,” alleging that the company illegally interrogated their employees over their union membership at a successful union drive. The location had become the first Starbucks in San Francisco to successfully unionize in August.

Barista Kyle Trainer said a lawyer told him verdicts in complaints can take months.

“Starbucks has always positioned itself as a quote-unquote ally to the LGBTQIA+ community," said Kyle Trainer, a barista. "Some of the stuff they've been doing lately has not shown that."

Starbucks said it unwaveringly supports the LGBTQIA2+ community and is committed to advancing negotiations.

David Jude Thomas, a regular at the Castro location for 23 years and before that when it was a Peet’s Coffee, had to go elsewhere for his morning coffee. The multimedia artist cited the removal of customer seating from the shop as an example of the corporation failing its workers and customers.

“As a handicapped person, having a place to sit is necessary for people with my condition,” Thomas said.

“The employees have tried to maintain warmness,” he added.

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