Some expressed cynicism that the company’s core beliefs had shifted. “As an avid Starbucks patron, I’m very confused,” Bryanna Claybourne of Norcross, Ga., wrote on Instagram. “Why make a statement saying your employees can’t wear BLM apparel but not 24 hours later, tell them now it’s okay because you ‘stand with us.’ Pick a side. Admit you made a mistake. Don’t romanticize this movement for publicity. This is real life.”
Starbucks responded to this comment, saying, “Our ongoing commitment is to listen, learn and work to be a better company.”
John-Paul Oliveria of Mountain View, Calif., expressed a similar sentiment. “You’re a day too late to be showing support on this,” he wrote on Instagram. In an interview, he said he was disappointed Starbucks was turning support for the Black Lives Matter movement into a “publicity stunt.”
Several customers also expressed dissatisfaction with the change of heart, expressing a preference not to see Black Lives Matter messaging in their local coffee shop.
The overwhelming number of public comments — at least immediately — seemed to be supportive of the new policy, however. Many thanked Starbucks for listening and rising to the moment.
Unite Here, a labor union representing hotel, restaurant and airport workers, said customers should hesitate before giving the company too much credit, however. Based on the union’s analysis of employees in 27 U.S. airports, median pay for black Starbucks baristas was $1.85 less than for white baristas. Though these airport locations were managed at the time by an external contractor, HMSHost, it is Starbucks’s responsibility to rectify the pay gap, a Unite Here spokeswoman said.
In February, workers at these Starbucks airport partners called on Starbucks to address the gap, according to Unite Here. “To date, Starbucks has not responded to this demand,” United Here said in a statement to The New York Times.
Starbucks did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the pay gap matter.