WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Tuesday that Starbucks interim CEO Howard Schultz has agreed to testify before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for its investigation into the company’s labor practices — a move that comes a day before the business executive was expected to face a subpoena.
“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, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement. “The HELP Committee was scheduled to vote tomorrow to subpoena him, and I want to thank the members of the committee who, in a bipartisan way, were prepared to do just that.”
“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,” Sanders continued. “Unfortunately Starbucks, under Mr. Schultz’s leadership, has done everything possible to prevent that from happening.”
Sanders, a pro-labor populist, is investigating dozens of complaints that Starbucks violated federal labor law and other accusations of unfair labor practices leveled against the company under Schultz’s leadership. Starbucks has defended its actions, including filing countercomplaints against the unions.
In a statement, Starbucks — which had pushed back on Sanders’ demands and instead offered other executives it said were better suited to testify — confirmed that Schultz has acquiesced.
“After constructive discussions with committee staff, we have agreed that interim chief executive officer Howard Schultz will testify on behalf of Starbucks before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on March 29, 2023, at 10 a.m. ET,” Zabrina Jenkins, the acting executive vice president and general counsel for Starbucks, said in a letter.
Jenkins said the company will “endeavor to provide a deeper understanding of our culture and priorities, including our industry-leading benefits offerings and our longstanding commitment to support the shared success of our more than 450,000 global partners (employees).”
Sanders told reporters Tuesday that he’s “delighted” Schultz has accepted the request to testify ahead of the likely subpoena.
“The issue here pretty simple,” Sanders said. “Workers have the right to form unions. They have the constitutional right. The [National Labor Relations Board] has indicated that over 80 incidents where Starbucks has violated federal law.”