Did Starbucks Ban Pride Displays in 2023?

Despite video evidence, conflicting reports could be found.

Published Jun 14, 2023

 (Noam Galai/Getty Images)
Image Via Noam Galai/Getty Images

On June 13, 2023, the Twitter account of the Starbucks Workers Union reported that some workers had been asked to take down or ban Pride Month displays — a change, the union alleges, from past years:

Conservative commentators who had been promoting boycotts of companies like Budweiser and Target for their support of Pride Month immediately took the news as a victory, claiming that Starbucks had ordered its workers to "take down all pride displays."

At the corporate level, Starbucks denied that there had been any policy change. Starbucks spokesperson Andrew Trull said:

We unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA2+ community … There has been no change to any policy on this matter and we continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities including for U.S. Pride month in June.

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.

This information is inconsistent with the claims of several Starbucks employees online that predate the Starbucks Union announcement. On June 5, for example, Starbucks workers organized a petition to Starbucks' director of regional operations in the Bethesda, Maryland, region, Brigitte Herbert, titled "Let Starbucks Partners Decorate For Pride." 

That petition asserted that "upper management" told workers they were "no longer allowed to put up pride decorations." The Guardian spoke with two workers who signed this petition and who witnessed the removal of Pride material. One said the reason given was a new "no-decorations policy":

A Starbucks worker in Virginia at a non-unionized store who started the petition, but requested to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said they came into work in the beginning of June and noticed all of their store's Pride and other decorations had been taken down. 

"I was told that they had just implemented a new no-decorations policy. And I was like, 'Right before Pride?' That's really suspicious and kind of weird. I was pretty sure it wasn't just our store, because our store managers are very supportive of LGBT stuff, most of our employees are LGBT community members, and I was told that it was the regional manager's decision," the worker said.

Another worker in Maryland implied the same — that decorations were now not allowed at stores: 

"They took down most of what we had up at the beginning of June and said we can't decorate for Pride this year or anything else. The store has to look JLP – 'just like the picture'," the worker said. "We've been asked not [to] make a big deal of it. 

According to the union, the reasons given to workers at stores across the country have varied. 

In a statement posted to Twitter, the Union cited "a manager in the Mid-Atlantic region" who told workers the reason was a leadership decision to create uniformity and a "consistent experience in stores." In Massachusetts, according to the Union, "some workers were told that they couldn't put up decorations due to there not being enough 'labor hours' to schedule partners to decorate."

In at least one case, conservative attacks on other companies supporting Pride month were cited by managers as the reason for the change. Casey Moore, a spokesperson for the Union, told The Daily Beast that workers in Oklahoma were informed "it was a safety issue related to the recent attacks on Target."

In each of these cases, the alleged directive would have come from middle management or from regional directors or store managers. One worker who spoke to the Guardian alleged that Starbucks' response that there had been no change in corporate policy was misleading, since regional leadership had been behind the push: 

The worker criticized Starbucks's initial denial that Pride decorations were being removed in stores and claimed the company was circumventing the claims by citing the decoration removals weren't part of any corporate policy change because it was a regional management decision that affected their store.

Indeed, the petition created on June 5, 2023, was not addressed to the highest levels of the company, but to Herbert, who coordinates with the district leaders in a given region. 

Speaking to the Guardian, a Starbucks spokesperson said the company was "waiting to hear back from the regional manager mentioned in the petition on what disconnect exists between workers and management on decoration policies." Snopes has also reached out to Herbert, who did not immediately respond to our request for comment. 

While the official denial by Starbucks' corporate office does not appear to hold up to scrutiny, it's unclear, at this point, whether the directives originated from middle management, or whether corporate denials of a policy change are suspect.


"Dir Regional Operations - Covina, CA, United States - Starbucks Coffee Company -." beBee, Accessed 14 June 2023.

"Let Starbucks Partners Decorate For Pride." Coworker.Org, Accessed 14 June 2023.

Muldowney, Decca. "Starbucks Denies Telling Baristas to Remove Pride Flags From Stores." The Daily Beast, 13 June 2023,

Otten, Tori, et al. "Starbucks Denies Union Allegations of a Ban on Pride Decorations." The New Republic, 1 Nov. 2022. The New Republic,

"Our Official Statement on Starbucks Refusing to Let Workers Put up Pride Decorations at Dozens of Stores across the Country." Twitter, 13 June 2023,

Sainato, Michael. "Starbucks Pride Decorations Removed Because of New Policy, US Workers Say." The Guardian, 14 June 2023. The Guardian,

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.

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