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Starbucks workers union rocks Pride Parade: Corporate float falls flat

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Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo

Hundreds of Starbucks workers and supporters from many other unions marched at Seattle's Pride Parade on June 25.

In a labor contingent organized by Pride At Work, Starbucks Workers United (SBWU) took the lead with a banner reading "Workers Rights Are Trans and Queer Rights." They were followed by a flatbed truck filled with dancing, chanting workers, with contingents from other unions following behind.

Many in the labor contingent wore shirts with the SBWU logo and the tagline "Be Gay and Organize." Others carried signs supporting SBWU.
The crowd along the way responded with cheers and applause as Starbucks workers passed. SBWU members passed out union stickers, signs, and shirts along the parade route.

Workers at unionized Starbucks stores — including the signature Starbucks Roastery on Capitol Hill and the first-ever Starbucks in Pike Market — declared a three-day strike for Pride weekend. Because the strike was sanctioned by MLK Labor, King County's central labor council, Teamsters who deliver to Starbucks stores honored the picket lines and cut off deliveries to the stores.

In contrast, the Starbucks corporate float was met with dead silence by the crowd along the parade route. According to SBWU members on the scene, most of the people in the corporate contingent abandoned their float after passing the first reviewing stand at Westlake Plaza.

"I was right by Olive Way and had no idea there were people on it," one parade-goer tweeted about the corporate float.

"We have a theory," SBWU tweeted after the parade. "Starbucks is wildly performative and pretends to stick up for Queer partners while the public watches. It would be on brand for the partners to bounce the second they've had some limelight on the stage at 4th and Westlake..." (Starbucks calls its employees "partners.")

SBWU members reported that people in the crowd took up the chant "Workers united will never be defeated" as the lonely corporate float rolled by.

"We understand it may have been hard to learn the Queer community doesn't like people who don't respect workers' rights," the union added.

Pride At Work, which organized the labor contingent in Sunday's parade, along with SBWU and MLK Labor, is an LGBTQ+ organization affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The Seattle chapter has been working since 1997 to promote LGBTQ+ rights and representation in organized labor.

SBWU has had remarkable success since beginning its organizing drive in 2021. To date, some 330 stores have unionized, with more awaiting NLRB-supervised union elections. The company has responded, the union says, with a campaign of firings and intimidation against union activists. In addition, SBWU charges the management side with stalling contract negotiations.