The Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, has agreed to testify before a Senate committee investigating the company’s intense opposition to national efforts to unionize its stores.
Senator Bernie Sanders had threatened to subpoena Schultz if he refused to appear before the US Senate health, education, labor and pensions (Help) committee. Sanders said Schultz had “refused to answer any of the serious questions we have asked” for over a year.
Since late 2021, 290 Starbucks stores around the US have won union elections, but dozens of workers and the Starbucks Workers United union have filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over alleged retaliatory firings, discipline, unilateral changes, store closures, refusing to bargain with the union and intimidation against workers’ efforts to form unions.
Nine decisions by NLRB administrative law judges so far have found Starbucks violated the National Labor Relations Act, and 22 Starbucks workers have received judgments ordering their reinstatement. No Starbucks appeals have yet overturned any rulings.
“I’m happy to announce that Howard Schultz, the CEO and founder of Starbucks, has finally agreed to testify before the Senate Help committee. The Help committee was scheduled to vote tomorrow to subpoena him and I want to thank the members of the committee who, in a bipartisan way, were prepared to do just that,” Sanders said in a statement. “In America, workers have the constitutional right to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining to improve their wages and working conditions. Unfortunately Starbucks, under Mr Schultz’s leadership, has done everything possible to prevent that from happening.”
Starbucks initially pushed back on efforts to compel Schultz to testify before the US Senate Help committee, offering other Starbucks executives in lieu of Schultz. Sanders criticized Starbucks’ response.
Starbucks Workers United has called out Schultz on social media, using a #DearHoward hashtag to criticize how Starbucks has responded to unionization efforts and its impact on workers in anticipation of the Senate testimony.