Yesterday, thrice former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made an appearance in front of the Senate’s Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions Committee to discuss the company’s labor practices, particularly as they relate alleged anti-union activity.
You may have already seen videos leaking out online of the hearing, where committee chair and union advocate Senator Bernie Sanders can be seen taking Schultz to task over what he calls “the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country.”
Bernie Sanders unloads on Howard Schultz.
‘Over the past 18 months, Starbucks has waged the most aggressive and illegal union-busting camping in the modern history of our country…led by Howard Schultz, the multibillionaire who is with us only under the threat of subpoena.’ pic.twitter.com/OaemiSBqQp
— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) March 29, 2023
As reported by NBC News, the face-off between Sanders and Schultz has been highly anticipated, with Starbucks spending much of the weeks-long hearing urging the panel that Schultz—who stepped down from the CEO position for the third time recently, before his planned exit date—didn’t need to appear. But after Sanders’ refusal and a threat of subpoena, Schultz ultimately agreed to testify.
At the hearing, titled “No Company is Above the Law: The Need to End Illegal Union Busting at Starbucks,” Schultz defended the companies labor practices with the aid of testimony from a Starbucks barista, a former Starbucks employee, and “other witnesses.” Schultz states that the company has done nothing illegal and that “We do nothing that is nefarious… And that’s why Starbucks doesn’t need a union.”
Schultz, who took umbrage with being labeled a billionaire and stated, “Yes I have billions of dollars. I earned it. No one gave it to me,” went on to state that the company is committed to negotiating in good faith on contracts at each store that has chosen to unionize. As noted by Senator Sanders, nearly 300 US-based company-owned Starbucks locations have successfully voted to unionize since the end of 2019 and not a single contract has yet to be ratified.
Coming to the aid of the former CEO and one-time Democratic presidential nominee hopeful, panel Republicans decried the hearing as a smear campaign and a witch hunt, quoted Ayn Rand, and claimed that because Senator Sanders was worth $8 million (which he flatly denied, stating that the accusing senator was “probably looking at some phony right-wing internet stuff”), he shouldn’t criticize fellow wealthy people.
After the hearing, Starbucks Workers United took to Twitter to challenge the veracity of some of the Schultz testimony.
Starbucks brought corporate representatives to listen to Howard Schultz testify. But as soon as WORKERS got up to speak, they all left.
Howard just spent two hours claiming that Starbucks listened to their workers. Actions speak louder than words. https://t.co/88OkPYhpoo
— Starbucks Workers United (@SBWorkersUnited) March 29, 2023
Currently, over 500 charges of unfair labor practices have been brought against Starbucks, and the National Labor Relations Board has filed over 80 complaints against the company.