Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is set to testify Wednesday morning before a Senate committee chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is expected to grill the billionaire on the coffee giant's scorched-earth union-busting campaign that has drawn hundreds of unfair labor practice charges and dozens of complaints from the NLRB.
In his opening statement at the hearing, Sanders ran through the litany of allegations against Starbucks and called the company's efforts "the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of our country."
"That union-busting campaign has been led by Howard Schultz," said the senator, who vowed to press the former CEO to comply with recent NLRB rulings and stop obstructing contract negotiations.
"What is outrageous to me is not only Starbucks' anti-union activities and their willingness to break the law—it is their calculated and intentional efforts to stall, stall, and stall," Sanders continued. "They understand that the turnover rate at Starbucks is high. They understand that if workers do not see success in getting a contract and improved wages they may get discouraged. So what Starbucks is doing is not only trying to break unions, but even worse. They are trying to break the spirit of workers who are struggling to improve their lives. And that is unforgivable."
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Following Schultz's appearance, the committee will hear from a separate panel of witnesses, including current Starbucks worker Maggie Carter and former employee Jaysin Saxton, who was fired after he led a union drive at a store in Augusta, Georgia. Last April, that location became the first Starbucks shop in Georgia to unionize.
The NLRB filed a complaint in December alleging that Saxton was unlawfully terminated for engaging in protected union activity. Saxton is one of more than 60 union organizers fired by Starbucks since December 2021, when workers in Buffalo, New York voted to form the company's first union in the U.S.
Since then, nearly 300 Starbucks locations have opted to unionize in the face of aggressive pushback from the company, which has slashed workers' hours, withheld raises, threatened worse benefits for unionized shops, and shut down entire stores in an effort to crush organizing momentum.
Starbucks Workers United said that more than a dozen Starbucks employees from across the United States are expected to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend the hearing, which comes after weeks of stonewalling from Starbucks executives.
Schultz, who has been accused of nearly 100 labor law violations since early 2022, finally agreed to testify earlier this month under threat of subpoena. Schultz stepped down as Starbucks' chief executive on March 20, though he remains on the company's board of directors.
"The HELP Committee intends to make clear that in America we must not have a two-tiered justice system in which billionaires and large corporations can break the law with impunity, while working-class people are held accountable for their actions," Sanders said.
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams and was authored by Jake Johnson.