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Ex-Starbucks CEO denies breaking union laws before Congress

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chair Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., questions former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, before the committee, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

(NewsNation) — Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz denied that the company broke labor laws, and defended its stance on unions, during what was an often testy appearance before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who’s been vocally supportive of Starbucks labor organizers, has been trying to get Schultz to give testimony for months. Schultz agreed to do so under threat of a subpoena.

The Vermont Independent says Schultz, who remains on Starbucks’ board, was instrumental in setting the company’s policies, though the former CEO argues otherwise.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Sanders said Starbucks has waged the most aggressive and illegal union-busting campaign in the modern history of this country.

Sanders asked Schultz about National Labor Relations Board judges finding Starbucks guilty of breaking federal labor laws over 100 times during the past 18 months.

“Starbucks Coffee Company unequivocally, and let me set the tone for this very early on, has not broken the law,” Schultz insisted.

At least 293 of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-owned U.S. Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since late 2021, according to the NLRB. However, a contract agreement with Starbucks has not been reached at any of those stores.

Workers want higher pay, more consistent schedules and better benefits — things Starbucks claims it already provides.

While some senators grilled Schultz over allegations of unfair labor practices at Starbucks, Republicans defended him.

Sen. Rand Paul, (R-Kentucky) said he’s excited that Starbucks is an “American success story,” adding that he doesn’t want to be part of a “witch hunt.”

“The hearing today is convened to attack a private company for its success,” Paul said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story is developing. Refresh for updates.

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