Bernie Sanders successfully cajoled Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz into testifying before a Senate committee on labor practices

  • Interim Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has agreed to testify in front of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ committee.
  • Sanders chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP), and wanted to subpoena Schultz to testify.
  • Now, Schultz has agreed to testify on March 29 about the firm’s alleged anti-union activities.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ relentless quest to get Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to testify about labor law violations has come to a triumphant end. 

Sanders, in an effort to get Schultz to testify in front of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) he chairs, was prepared to hold a vote to subpoena him to appear. Ahead of that vote — which was scheduled for Wednesday — Sanders said that Schultz has “finally agreed to testify.” Sanders also thanked the members of his committee, “who, in a bi-partisan way, were prepared” to vote to subpoena Schultz.

“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 said in a statement. “Unfortunately Starbucks, under Mr. Schultz’s leadership, has done everything possible to prevent that from happening.”

The massive unionization effort at Starbucks was part of a surge in work stoppages and labor actions in 2022. In fact, the majority of work stoppages in the accommodations and food services industry were led by either Starbucks workers or workers with a national movement called Fight for $15.

Currently, regional offices of the National Labor Relations Board have issued 81 complaints against Starbucks after investigations into allegations of labor-law violations, and has ordered the reinstatement of 22 Starbucks workers who were let go. Across the US, the NLRB has certified 285 bargaining units at Starbucks stores. 

In a release, Starbucks said that, after “ongoing outreach and constructive dialogue with Chairman Sanders” and other members of the HELP Committee, they have agreed to have Schultz testify on March 29.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Committee to foster productive dialogue,” interim executive vice president and general counsel Zabrina Jenkins wrote in a letter to Sanders. “As part of those efforts, we will endeavor to provide a deeper understanding of our culture and priorities, including our industry leading
benefits offerings and our long-standing commitment to support the shared success of our more than 450,000
global partners (employees).” 

Sanders said that the committee “intends to make clear that in America we must not have a two-tiered justice system,” where billionaires and large corporations are able to break the law with impunity, but working class people get held accountable.

“I look forward to hearing from Mr. Schultz as to when he intends to end his illegal anti-union activities and begin signing fair first contracts with the unions,” Sanders said in his statement.