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Starbucks' Howard Schultz agrees to testify before a Senate committee

Facing a possible subpoena, the CEO accepted a pointed invitation to appear before the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which is chaired by Bernie Sanders.
Schultz agreed to testify March 29, three days before he steps down as Starbucks CEO. / Photo: Shutterstock

Acting Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has agreed to appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee to answer questions about the coffee chain’s handling of an ongoing unionization drive.

Starbucks said the chain decided to comply with an appearance request from Senator and HELP Chairman Bernie Sanders after “ongoing and constructive dialogue” with the populist independent from Vermont. Sanders had threatened to subpoena Schultz if he did not agree to appear before the committee voluntarily.

Schultz is scheduled to appear on March 29, or three days before he surrenders the CEO’s duties to his handpicked successor, Laxman Narasimhan. Schultz reassumed the CEO post from then-holder Kevin Johnson last year as Starbucks unit after Starbucks unit voted to join Starbucks Workers United, a newly formed affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The staffs of about 270 Starbucks units have opted to be represented by the union.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry is scheduled to appear before the HELP Committee on Wednesday.

Starbucks said that it has also agreed to make EVP and Chief Public Affairs Officer AJ Jones, general counsel Zabrina Jenkins and VP of Partner and Labor Relations Mary Jensen available to the Committee.

Sanders has been a pointed critic of Starbucks’ handling of the unionization drive. He said in a letter last week to Schultz that Starbucks has been the subject of 75 complaints filed with the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that monitors unionization.

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