Starbucks Is Under Scrutiny Over Removal of Pride Decorations

Ray Schmidt, 32, said that about six to eight weeks ago, his store manager in Strongsville, Ohio, told workers to take down a Pride flag that had been hanging on a wall for at least a year because “it was not inclusive for everyone.”

Mr. Schmidt, a shift supervisor who is helping to organize a union at the store, said that since then “you wouldn’t even know that it’s Pride month going into Starbucks, which is wild for our store, where probably 80 to 90 percent of the people that work there are L.G.B.T.Q.”

The scrutiny of Pride decorations at Starbucks stores follows similar controversies at some of the country’s most prominent companies. The beer brand Bud Light has for months been dealing with the fallout of a social media promotion involving a transgender influencer. One of the country’s largest retailers, Target, said it moved its Pride displays in some stores after workers received threats.

The backlash to inclusive marketing comes as a flood of legislation is attempting to roll back L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

Starbucks emphasized that it has supported the community for decades with workplace policies, donations and Supreme Court briefs that backed same-sex marriage and civil rights for L.G.B.T.Q. workers. In 2022, Starbucks received a top rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, which assesses L.G.B.T.Q. equity at companies based on their benefits, policies and culture.

The company’s inclusive policy is one of the reasons many people seek work there.

“This is the first place of work where I am surrounded by the queer community,” said Meghin Martin, who has worked for Starbucks for nearly two years and was told they could not hang a Pride flag at a cafe in Richmond, Va.

Workers displayed a Pride flag, rainbow-colored paper chains and rainbow lights inside a Starbucks in Madison, Wis., for about a month. But on Sunday, a district manager visited “to make sure everything was up to standard,” said Matt Cartwright, a shift supervisor at the store.