Howard Schultz To Testify At Senate About Starbucks Anti-Union Activities

The struggle over the Starbucks unionization efforts has been ratcheting up over the past month, with a back-and-forth battle leading up to CEO Howard Schultz finally agreeing to testify before the Senate about the company's recent alleged anti-union activities. The push by workers to unionize the coffee giant has been going full throttle since the first store voted to unionize at the end of 2021. Schultz has been outspoken in his opposition to the union since returning to the company as interim CEO in April 2022, feeling that Starbucks values its employees enough to make union representation unnecessary. Despite that, many Starbucks employees seem to disagree, as 290 stores have voted to unionize in little over a year.

Tensions came to a head in recent months as a spate of rulings have come down both for and against Starbucks, after unionizing employees accused the company of retaliating against workers. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued numerous rulings in support of the union, culminating in a cease-and-desist order being issued last month to stop Starbucks from firing employees engaged in union activity. In a victory for the company, that ruling was later reversed by the same judge, only to be followed up by another NLRB ruling that Starbucks has engaged in serious misconduct and must be held accountable. Throughout all of this, some U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, have sought to subpoena Schultz to testify about the company's labor practices, and it looks like that effort just paid off.

Howard Schultz will testify before a Senate committee on March 29

The Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions was set to vote on a subpoena for Schultz on Wednesday (March 8), but according to CNBC, Starbucks and Schultz didn't wait for the vote and have agreed to testify. The company's position had been that since Schultz was planning to step down as CEO soon, it would be better for another executive to testify instead. Unmoved, Senator Sanders threatened to subpoena Schultz, and the vote seemed destined to pass a committee controlled by the Democratic majority. Staring down that vote, Starbucks issued a statement saying that "after constructive discussions," they agreed Schultz would testify, and that they hoped the work will "foster productive dialogue." The hearing is scheduled for March 29.

Starbucks Workers United, the committee organizing the union drive, has issued their own statement in response, saying they "look forward to Howard Schultz testifying." Calling Schultz "the architect of Starbucks' unprecedented anti-union campaign," they pointed out that he declined an invitation just last month and has only agreed to cooperate "under the increasingly real threat of a subpoena." No doubt, Schultz's testimony will be closely followed by both Starbucks employees and labor activists around the country, as this is one of the biggest union battles the country has seen in decades. As to whether this will calm the current fight or drive a further wedge between the two sides, we'll just have to wait and see.