Sanders seeks showdown with Schultz on Starbucks

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)

Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz, who led the coffee giant off and on for over two decades, was called to testify before a Senate panel by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as lawmakers probe the company’s compliance with federal labor laws.

Sanders, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sent a letter, signed by a group of committee members. to Schultz on Tuesday, calling for the interim leader to sit for testimony in front of the panel. The Seattle-based company has faced criticism for trying to squash workers from unionizing across its locations.

The letter from Sanders said the hearing scheduled for March 9 will focus on “Starbucks’ compliance with Federal labor laws.”

The veteran senator, a progressive who has long advocated for workers’ rights to unionize, has blasted Starbucks and other companies in the past for trying to corral those efforts.

A push by workers at Starbucks stores across the country jolted company leadership, with 268 stores voting to unionize by December 2022, according to statistics from the National Labor Relations Board, first reported by NPR.

The board ruled in November 2022 that Starbucks had illegally refused to negotiate with a union at one of its Seattle locations. Schultz stepped in as interim CEO in March 2022, and will once again step down when the company’s new leader in April.

Sanders has long had an adversarial relationship with Schultz, sending a letter to him upon his return to lead the business last year and telling him to stop the “union busting.”

“This is a pivotal moment for Starbucks,” Sanders said in the letter. “As you return to the company, it is time to do the right thing: End the union busting and obey the law.”

The company has not confirmed if Schultz will accept the invitation.

“We will continue our ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders, including the Chairman’s office, to offer clarifying information in reference to these issues,” a spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders howard schultz labor Senate starbucks unions

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