Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) announced on Wednesday that he is setting up a vote on subpoenaing Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz after Schultz refused Sanders’s request to testify about the company’s rampant union busting last month.
Sanders said that Schultz’s avoidance of the request has “given us no choice but to subpoena him” and that the committee will decide whether or not to issue a subpoena to force Schultz to appear on March 8.
The committee will also vote on authorizing a committee investigation into corporate union busting, according to a press release from Sanders’s office. The votes will be followed by a hearing on worker rights, which will feature testimony from AFL-CIO president Liz Schuler, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Mary Kay Henry and Teamsters president Sean O’Brien.
“For nearly a year, I and many of my colleagues in the Senate have repeatedly asked Mr. Schultz to respect the constitutional right of workers at Starbucks to form a union and to stop violating federal labor laws,” Sanders said in a statement. “Mr. Schultz has failed to respond to those requests. He has denied meeting and document requests, skirted congressional oversight attempts, and refused to answer any of the serious questions we have asked.”
“Unfortunately, Mr. Schultz has given us no choice but to subpoena him,” Sanders continued. “A multi-billion dollar corporation like Starbucks cannot continue to break federal labor law with impunity. The time has come to hold Starbucks and Mr. Schultz accountable.”
Sanders is confident that the vote will be successful, and has told reporters that it will get the support of not only Democrats, but also Republicans on the committee. The committee is looking at March 15 for Schultz to appear.
In February, Schultz turned down a request from Sanders to testify before the committee at a planned hearing about the company’s union busting, which has come into sharp focus over the last two years as the workers have led a groundbreaking union campaign that has seen 286 stores voting to unionize so far. Sanders pledged that he would move to subpoena Schultz, which can only be done in the HELP Committee with a majority vote.
Starbucks workers have been raising the alarm about the company’s union busting, and have said that the three-time CEO was brought back last year specifically to quell the union drive. So far, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued more than 60 complaints of alleged illegal union busting against the company, encompassing over 1,200 violations and earning the title of “one of the worst violators of federal labor law in history,” as Starbucks Workers United says.
The company is now facing another rebellion from its workers — but this time, from its white-collar corporate employees. As first reported by Bloomberg, dozens of corporate employees and managers have signed an open letter to executives and board members protesting the company’s union busting and its return-to-office mandate. The workers say that morale around the office is “at an all time low” and that the supposedly progressive image that the company has created is at risk of crumbling, if it hasn’t already. At least one worker who signed the letter has said that, if the company refuses to listen to the letter, unionization is on the table.
“After Howard issued his edict, I definitely did not feel good working for Starbucks any more — it felt like I am working for a dictator,” Starbucks app developer and letter signer Peter de Jesus told Bloomberg. “I feel like this is not the Starbucks that I signed on for.”
“If it doesn’t lead to any meaningful change, then the next step is obviously to think about possibly unionizing,” de Jesus continued. The union has praised the move, calling the letter signers “courageous.”