Sanders confronts Starbucks’ Schultz over labor law violations

Interim CEO Howard Schultz (left) speaks during Starbucks Investor Day 2022 on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear/Susan Walsh) Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (right). talks with reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday directly confronted former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz over allegations that the coffee chain fired, disciplined and intimidated pro-union workers under his tenure. 

During a highly anticipated Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing, Sanders questioned Schultz under oath over his role in union-busting tactics that several judges have deemed illegal. 

Sanders, the committee’s chairman, asked Schultz whether he was aware that National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) judges have ruled that Starbucks broke labor laws more than 130 times. He also asked Schultz whether he was personally involved in decisions to fire baristas who were union organizers. 

“Mr. Chairman, let me say, under oath, these are allegations and Starbucks has not broken the law,” Schultz said, adding that he was not involved in decisions to fire workers.

When asked if he had been involved in threatening or coercing workers who support unions, Schultz said that he “had conversations that could have been interpreted in a different way than I intended.” Schultz also denied involvement in closing stores that voted to unionize. 

“My involvement and engagement in union activities, despite this event today, has been de minimis,” he said. “I was not involved in any issue of closing stores.”

Sanders reminded Schultz during their exchange that federal law prohibits him from making false statements before the committee. 

Nearly 300 Starbucks stores have voted to form a union since December 2021, when a Buffalo location became the first to unionize, prompting Starbucks to crack down on organizing efforts. 

An NLRB judge ruled earlier this month that Starbucks violated labor laws and displayed “egregious and widespread misconduct demonstrating a general disregard for the employees’ fundamental rights.” Starbucks is appealing the decision.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Howard Schultz howard schultz starbucks Starbucks Union

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