Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (L), Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
Reuters (L) | Getty Images
Senator Bernie Sanders hinted that lawmakers could subpoena Howard Schultz to coerce the incumbent Starbucks The CEO will testify before a Senate panel about how the coffee chain is handling pressure from its baristas to unionize.
“One way or another, he will be there,” Sanders, a pro-union independent from Vermont, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “But as you know, it’s not the president’s decision alone.”
Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in a statement Wednesday that he intends to hold Schultz and Starbucks accountable and looks forward to seeing Schultz appear before the Commission.
A Starbucks representative did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Schultz declined an invitation for 11 senators to appear at the March 9 hearing, Reuters first reported on Tuesday evening. Starbucks General Counsel Zabrina Jenkins wrote in the letter that Schultz was stepping down in March, so it makes more sense for another top executive with ongoing responsibilities to testify instead.
The company instead named director of public affairs AJ Jones II as the best person to address the committee.
Schultz owns 1.9% of Starbucks stock, according to Factset. The company’s market value stands at around $124.6 billion.
Nearly 290 company-owned Starbucks coffee shops in the United States voted to unionize on Monday, according to a tally by the National Labor Relations Board. The union push for baristas began under Schultz’s predecessor — and former successor — Kevin Johnson. When Johnson stepped down in the spring of 2021, Schultz returned to the helm and more aggressively pushed back against workers’ attempts to unionize.
To date, regional offices of the Federal Labor Commission have filed 76 complaints against Starbucks, alleging illegal labor practices. More recently, the NLRB ruled Monday that Starbucks unlawfully fired two workers and violated other labor laws during a labor campaign at two Philadelphia locations in 2019, ahead of the current labor boom sweeping the company.
The anti-union allegations have damaged Starbucks’ reputation as a progressive employer, although they do not appear to have hurt the company’s sales in the United States. The chain reported 10% growth in same-store sales in the United States for its latest quarter, boosted by strong demand during the holiday season.
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