Howard Schultz Subpoena Tracker

Anita Alem

Anita Alem is a student at Harvard Law School.

This post is an ongoing OnLabor feature that will update readers on Senator Bernie Sanders’s effort to subpoena Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz about union-busting.

March 7 update

After facing the threat of subpoena by the Senate Health, Education, labor, and Pensions Committee, Starbucks Interim CEO Howard Schultz has agreed to testify at a hearing on March 29.

As I reported earlier this week, Chairman Bernie Sanders had been pressuring Schultz to testify over the past several weeks, and the HELP Committee had planned to vote on whether to subpoena Schultz on Wednesday, March 8. The meeting has since been cancelled.

In its press release on March 2, Starbucks expressed it was “shocked and deeply concerned” by the subpoena vote. However, in today’s press release, entitled “Working with the Senate HELP Committee,” Starbucks appears to have taken on a more cooperative tone. In a letter to Sanders and Senator William Cassidy, acting Executive Vice President and General Counsel Zabrina Jenkins wrote:

“After constructive discussions with Committee staff, we have agreed that interim chief executive officer Howard Schultz will testify on behalf of Starbucks before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on March 29, 2023, at 10 a.m. ET.

We look forward to continuing to work with the Committee to foster productive dialogue.”

The Committee is likely to ask Schultz about Starbucks’ anti-union labor practices, including what an NLRB Administrative Law Judge described as “egregious and widespread misconduct.”

March 6 update

The Senate Health, Education, labor, and Pensions Committee will hold a vote on whether to subpoena Starbucks Interim CEO Howard Schultz this Wednesday, March 8.

The Committee, chaired by Senator Bernie Sanders, has had an increasingly contentious relationship with Schultz, who has taken a vehemently anti-union stance against the campaign that has resulted in 200+ unionized Starbucks locations since 2021. Throughout the campaign, Starbucks has fired more than 100 union leaders and committed hundreds more unfair labor practices. As Professor Sachs has written, last week, an NLRB ALJ ordered Schultz to record and distribute a “notice reading” — a significant and potentially meaningful remedy for workers.

According to Starbucks’ press release, as of February 7, 2023, Sanders wrote to Starbucks to request that Schultz appear before the HELP Committee on March 9. One week later, Starbucks responded and stated Schultz will not testify before the committee since he is merely an interim CEO, and suggested that AJ Jones II is available to appear on March 9 instead.

Last Wednesday, March 1, Sanders announced that on March 8, the HELP Committee will vote on whether to subpoena Schultz. The Committee will also consider whether to authorize for investigation into labor law violations by other major corporations. The meeting and vote will be livestreamed and “will feature AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, and Teamsters President Sean O’Brien.”

In response, Starbucks wrote to Sanders on March 2 expressing it is “deeply concerned” by this “extraordinary step” and noted that Jones met with Sanders’ staff on February 17, and remains available to meet with HELP. Sanders responded that “Mr. Schultz has made it clear that he is the driving force of labor policy at Starbucks” and reiterated that HELP will be voting on March 8 on whether to compel Schultz to testify.

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