Bernie Sanders accuses ex-Starbucks chief of unprecedented union-busting | Starbucks

Starbucks’ former chief executive Howard Schultz was accused at a Senate hearing on Wednesday of running “the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country”.

The hearing, “No Company Is Above the Law: The Need to End Illegal Union Busting at Starbucks”, was chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders, a longtime critic of Starbucks’ anti-union activities.

Starbucks had initially resisted calls for Schultz to appear. He agreed after the committee threatened to subpoena him.

Nearly 300 Starbucks stores around the US have won union elections since the first Starbucks stores unionized in December 2021, though the rate of election filings slowed after an initial surge. Since that time, Starbucks has fought hard to stop the unionization drive and faces more unfair labor practice allegations than any other private employer in the US.

Sanders said: “Over the last 18 months Starbucks has waged the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country.”

Schultz responded by saying to Sanders: “These are allegations, and Starbucks has not broken the law.”

He defended the company’s record and said the company gave workers better wages and benefits than its competitors.

The Starbucks boss was defended by Republicans on the committee. Senator Rand Paul called the hearing a “witch-hunt” and Senator Bill Cassidy said it was a “smear campaign”.

Cassidy said no one is above the law, “but let’s not kid ourselves: this is not a fair and impartial hearing.”

Before the hearing, Sanders released a report by the committee’s majority staff outlining Starbucks’ record of unfair labor practice charges.

The report found Starbucks broke the law 130 times in six states and is facing an additional 70 cases. Misconduct ranged from firing workers in retaliation for union organizing to shutting down stores, withholding pay and benefits, and comments made by Schultz himself.

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“There is mounting evidence that the $113bn company’s anti-union efforts include a pattern of flagrant violations of federal labor law,” the report claims. “Starbucks has engaged in the most significant union-busting campaign in modern history. It has been led by Howard Schultz.”

Naomi Martinez, a shift supervisor at a unionized Starbucks in Phoenix, Arizona, said she wanted to hear Schultz publicly explain Starbucks’ response to the union campaign and the numerous labor law violations that the National Labor Relations Board and judges have affirmed in complaints and rulings.

“I always see the company state that they are continuing to respect the law, respect legal processes, respect the rights to organize, and we see a different story on the worker side of things,” said Martinez.

“I just want to hear from Howard’s mouth himself whether or not he thinks that Starbucks has continuously, really respected rights to organize, fully adhering to the law at every turn. Every time that they have their spokespeople say something like that it really is just, to me at least, a slap in the face, because they are abusing these legal processes at every turn.”

Starbucks has denied all allegations of labor law violations and appealed all National Labor Relations Board and court rulings against the company.

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