In a nervous and sometimes confrontational Senate hearing on Wednesday, Howard Schultz, who stepped down as CEO of Starbucks last week, shook his head. Faces heated questions about the company’s campaign against illegal unions.
“Starbucks has participated in the most aggressive and illegal labor union campaign in our nation’s modern history,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said at the opening hearing. “The campaign against unions was led by Howard Schultz.”
Schultz, the billionaire businessman who surveyed the 2019 presidential nomination, abruptly stepped down as Starbucks CEO just days before Wednesday’s hearing. But he remains on the company’s board of directors. He initially declined to testify before the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, appearing after being threatened with a subpoena last month.
The senator asked Schultz about eight rulings from the National Labor Relations Board that found Starbucks had violated 130 labor laws since the union campaign began in Buffalo in December 2021. He repeatedly shrugged his shoulders and ignored the verdict.
“Starbucks has not violated the law,” Schultz told the committee. “We are confident that those allegations will be proven untrue.”
When asked if he had personally “harassed” an employee who supported the union, he said: Schultz said “I’ve had conversations that may have been interpreted differently than I intended.” (The Starbucks union filed a complaint with the NLRB accusing Schultz of harassing California workers in April 2022.)
In a verdict earlier this month, Judge Michael A. Rosas found Starbucks committed “serious and widespread misconduct,” including retaliation against unionized employees. Promise better wages and benefits to non-unionized workers. and supervise the established staff Rosas writes that the company shows “A general disregard for basic employee rights.” Starbucks has been ordered to hire employees who were unlawfully fired.
“Every day we wake up thinking about how we can value our people,” Schultz told the committee. Summing up his vision for the company based on “humanity, respect and shared success,” he said the company’s “favorite” was to have “Direct relations” with workers without trade unions
Schultz shares his often-told story of growing up in a housing project in Brooklyn, New York. His father suffered a work injury when Schultz was a child. he told the board And the family was sad when he lost his job. He said it was this experience that made him “Create a different kind of company”
“Starbucks doesn’t need unions,” Schultz told the committee. “We didn’t do anything bad. We put our people first.”
Unionized Starbucks employees say they are motivated by low wages. unpredictable hours not enough staff and expensive welfare
“I’m a 12-year worker, no one speaks for me but me,” Michelle Eisen, a barista in Buffalo, told The Daily Beast last month.
Democratic senators were also not convinced of Schultz’s testimony by Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Patty Murray (D-). WA), representing Starbucks’ home state. All share stories about meeting Starbucks employees as one. in their states that said their organizing rights were interfered with by Starbucks.
Schultz became more defensive. retorting that he was personally “displeased” with Murray saying what she “heard” from the voters.
“I am upset that you categorized Starbucks as a union buster,” Schultz told Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who pointed out that the company was advised by one Littler Mendelsohn. in the country’s leading law firms.
A survey by The Daily Beast last summer found that Starbucks employed at least 50 attorneys for Littler Mendelson, spread across 17 states, according to NLRB filings.
in one explosion Schultz, whose net worth is $3.7 billion, according to Forbes. He was upset that Sanders was called a “billionaire.”
“I came from nothing,” he said, hissing, “I got it.”
Schultz was visibly angry at Senator Ed Markey of (D-PA), who compared a unionized Starbucks employee to Schultz’s father. who was fired after being injured
“Your father can’t defend himself. That’s all your workers want,” Markey said. “I don’t think you understand that, Mr. Schultz. They just want to be people who can protect themselves in a way your father couldn’t.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Schultz countered.
Republicans on the bailout committee widely supported Schultz. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) described the ruling as a “serious blow”. “Experimental Shows” and “Smear Campaigns”
Schultz was replaced as CEO of Starbucks this week by former Pepsi executive Laxman Narasimhan. Narasimhan told employees he would work half-day once a month as a barista at Starbucks locations, according to CNBC.