Connect with us


The ad Starbucks doesn’t want you to see

Pride at Work

SEATTLE (June 12, 2023) — June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and this year’s Pride Parade will be Sunday, June 25.

Every year, Seattle Pride publishes a Pride Guide filled with Pride activities and ads by local organizations and businesses celebrating the diversity and strength of the LGBTQ community.

But this year’s official Pride Guide will not carry an ad from Starbucks Workers United (SBWU), the union that represents the coffee giant’s employees, even though the union submitted ad copy by deadline. The ad featured artwork inspired by the Starbucks signature siren logo, and said, in part, “Starbucks: You can’t say you’re pro-queer and be anti-union! It’s time to stop union-busting.”

In addition to SBWU, 23 other labor and community organizations signed on to the ad, including the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. The ad urges supporters of Starbucks workers to sign this petition telling the company’s Board of Directors to “stop silencing queer workers.”

According to emails exchanged by Encore Media, the ad agency working for Seattle Pride, and SEIU, the parent union of SBWU, the ad agency flagged the ad for “review.”

“My concern is that Starbucks is one of their sponsors,” a representative of Encore said in email to SEIU.

Starbucks is a platinum level sponsor of Seattle Pride, meaning that they have given the Pride organizers at least $150,000.

On May 9, Encore notified SEIU and SBWU that “Seattle Pride has opted to not run your ad.” No explanation for Seattle Pride’s decision was offered. Seattle Pride subsequently apologized to SBWU and blamed the ad agency for “miscommunication.” Nevertheless, the ad is out of the Pride Guide.

Versions of the banned ad will run in Seattle Gay News and The Stranger.

Ironically, the queer-themed siren was once promoted by Starbucks management. Arthur Pratt, the artist who made the SBWU ad explained:

“The siren has a history. In 2020, I drew a siren with rainbow hair and the tagline ‘All Together Now.’ That was the company tagline for Pride. My manager used it in our store, and then it got passed around to other stores, and eventually printed up for use all over the country. They even published it on Starbucks Instagram.

“It’s a very emotionally manipulative company. They say we’re all in this together, but we’re not. They even put an empty chair out at board meetings to represent the ‘partners’ [Starbucks’ word for its workers].”

Asked if workers ever tried to go sit in the empty chair, Pratt laughed. “Yeah. They wouldn’t even let us in the building.”

In Nov. 12, 2022, Starbucks “partners” rallied outside the Portland Starbucks at 2328 W. Burnside to call for Arthur Pratt’s rehiring. (Photo courtesy of Don McIntosh, Northwest Labor Press)

Pratt was the target of retaliatory firing by the employer in November last year.

Speaking about his drawing of the signature siren, Pratt said, “I intentionally drew her not happy. Because she’s feeling rage. Rage and grief. And that’s the rage and grief I feel about Starbucks treating their workers like this. In my store, workers are denied raises, they’re denied credit card tips, they’re denied access to training. Oh, we talk about it, but management doesn’t deliver. They make you stretch beyond your limits and beyond your job description. Then when they want you gone, you’re gone.”

Every one of the 23 organizations that participated in the original ad have reaffirmed their support for the ad and SBWU.

“The fights for workers’ rights and LGBTQIA+ rights are intrinsically linked; queer people are present in workplaces across all industries and experience compounding oppression as workers,” said Tom Lambro, the first openly Gay President of MLK Labor, which represents some 150 unions and 100,000 workers in ML King County. “Too often we are used for our labor, and businesses that employ us profit off of our identities as trendy. And yet when we rise up to be seen, heard, and respected like the humans that we are, we are met with retaliation, illegal terminations, and other union-busting scare tactics.”

He added:

“Starbucks heralds themselves as a progressive employer, but unionized Starbucks workers have faced intimidation and a scorched-earth union-busting campaign that cuts hours which can cut workers’ access to healthcare, including gender-affirming care for trans workers. We’ve also seen that Starbucks management in some stores have been taking down Pride Flags. And yet, Starbucks is throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars into sponsoring Pride events here in Seattle and across the nation.

“Here in King County, we are proud to be part of the labor movement where workers and LGBTQIA+ people are empowered to challenge those who are seeking to exploit, silence, and harm us.”

Jerame Davis, Executive Director of Pride At Work, also offered support.

“The heavy hand of Starbucks is once again trying to silence its queer workers,” Davis said.

“A Starbucks worker created the art for this ad and the message represents the collective voice of thousands of LGBTQ+ working people in Starbucks nationwide. Given the ongoing attacks against queer and trans people happening in state legislatures around the country, it’s shameful that these queer workers can’t have their voices heard during Pride month.”

Pride At Work in Seattle has reserved a spot in the Pride Parade and will proudly host Starbucks workers and all union members. If you want to join, meet at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 25 on 4th Avenue between Pike and Union.


Mike Andrew is Secretary-Treasurer for Pride at Work, which represents the interests of LGBTQ+ union members and their allies.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!