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Starbucks CEO Caves, Agrees to Testify in Senate After Sanders Subpoena Threat

Schultz was slated to be subpoenaed by a Senate committee led by Sanders this week.

CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz sits off stage to listen to soon-to-be Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan at Investor Day in Seattle, Washington, on September 13, 2022.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has agreed to testify before the Senate labor committee after committee chair Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) threatened to subpoena the executive to appear in a hearing on the company’s rampant union busting later this month.

Sanders announced the company’s decision on Tuesday after weeks of demurring from the company, thanking members in the committee for being prepared to vote to subpoena Schultz, which was expected to happen on Wednesday.

“I’m happy to announce that Howard Schultz, the CEO and founder of Starbucks, has finally agreed to testify before the Senate HELP Committee,” Sanders said. “Let’s be clear. 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.”

The senator added that the company was recently found by a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judge to have broken labor laws hundreds of times in Buffalo, New York, where the union movement kicked off in 2021.

These violations are on top of the fact that the company has not yet signed a single first contract with any of the nearly 290 stores that have unionized so far, and that the NLRB has found over 1,300 violations of labor laws from the company over the course of Starbucks Workers United’s union campaign.

“The [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee intends to make clear that in America we must not have a two-tiered justice system in which billionaires and large corporations can break the law with impunity, while working class people are held accountable for their actions,” said Sanders. “I look forward to hearing from Mr. Schultz as to when he intends to end his illegal anti-union activities and begin signing fair first contracts with his unions.”

“Starbucks’s strategy is quite clear: it is to stall, stall and stall. They understand that it is cheaper to break the law than to follow it,” Sanders added during a press conference on Tuesday.

The union has celebrated the news. “We look forward to Howard Schultz testifying in front of the US Senate. As the architect of Starbucks’ unprecedented anti-union campaign, it is high time for him to be held accountable for his actions,” Starbucks Workers United wrote on Twitter. “Howard Schultz needs to learn that even billionaires aren’t above the law.”

The hearing, which is slated to be about Starbucks’s union busting, is scheduled for Wednesday, March 29. Last week, Sanders scheduled a vote to subpoena Schultz if he didn’t agree to appear before the committee after the company had avoided the request for weeks.

The company responded, offering to send a lower-level executive to the committee, but Sanders rebuffed that request, saying that Schultz is central to the company’s union-busting campaign and that the billionaire must personally answer to his and his company’s actions.

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